Mayor Briley insists on setting up oversight board: Gov. Lee supports bill limiting board’s power

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With Republican-sponsored legislation pending to limit local investigations of police misconduct, Nashville Mayor David Briley said Tuesday it’s his job to ensure the will of the voters is carried out by continuing to implement a community oversight board for police.

The mayor’s office released a statement in response to a recent bill from GOP state lawmakers that bars local oversight panels from having subpoena power, requires board members to be registered to vote and prohibits limiting membership based on demographics, economic status or employment history. Additionally, the bill ensures that any “confidential” documents provided to community oversight boards remain hidden from the public.

Currently, Nashville’s oversight board allows subpoena power and dictates that four of the seven members should live in “economically distressed communities.” The city passed the measure despite opposition from city’s police union and other influential groups.

MORE: New Community Oversight Board members ready for mission ahead

“The voice of Nashville was loud and clear when it voted for a community oversight board. It is my responsibility as mayor to ensure their will is carried out and that our (community oversight board) is expeditiously and effectively implemented,” Briley said in a statement. Briley is a Democrat. Nashville’s mayoral races are nonpartisan.

Briley’s only direct acknowledgment of bill and the lawmakers supporting the proposal was in the subject line of his statement. Nowhere in the 142-word response did he refer to the legislation or call on the GOP-dominated statehouse to block the bill.

Similarly, Republican leaders pushing the measure have refused to acknowledge that the bill is a direct response to Nashville. However, Republican Gov. Bill Lee on Tuesday spoke out against Nashville’s oversight powers.

Lee told reporters there’s a process for investigating fatal police shootings, “and what’s most important to me is that due process is carried out.” He added, “I don’t think that subpoena power should be given to that board because it changes the due process for law enforcement.”

MORE: Voters say yes to Amendment 1: a community oversight board

“We have a process for investigating those cases where there’s a police shooting that’s a result of a death. What’s most important to me is that due process is carried out, that’s what’s most important.” 

The first meeting of Nashville’s oversight panel will be Feb. 12.

“This bill is a targeted attack intended to obstruct Nashville’s community oversight board that was established in the most democratic way possible — a ballot referendum in which 60 percent of Nashville voters favored the measure,” said Tennessee Democratic Party Chairwoman Mary Mancini in a statement on Tuesday.

Knoxville has had a police review committee, with subpoena power, since 1998. Memphis established its civilian law enforcement review board in 1994 but cannot subpoena officers to come in and testify.

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