Community Oversight Board speaks out on Metro Police ‘lack of cooperation’; MNPD responds

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Metro Nashville’s Community Oversight Board is speaking out on what they call ‘lack of cooperation’ from the Metro Nashville Police Department.

This comes as MNCO was notified of an officer-involved shooting Wednesday morning.

“Today’s police-involved shooting marks three such occurrences in less than a month and MNPD’s lack of cooperation with the MNCO continues to be a glaring indictment of the issues that served as the initial catalyst for community oversight,” said Community Liason Brensey Thompson.

Thompson said MNCO Director Jill Fitcheard and members of the MNCO team arrived on the scene of the officer-involved shooting on Wednesday morning “where they were then directed to stand with the public and media.” MNCO alleges that MNPD did not acknowledge or brief them for over two hours.

“Unlike the total disregard shown to the MNCO staff, the MNPD’s Office of Professional Accountability Director and her investigators were welcomed to access the scene by Metro Police as soon as they arrived,” said Thompson.

MNCO says the full involvement and engagement “is not optional because transparency and trust between the Nashville community and MNPD is not optional.”

“Put simply, there cannot be another life lost where MNPD contemplates if they will cooperate with the COB. The community of Nashville has demanded that accountability, transparency, cooperation, and collaboration happen immediately with MNPD,” Said Thompson.

The COB and its staff report that MNPD is less than forthcoming with information and continues to choose actions that deliberately slow down or misinform them. Thompson and Board Chair Ashlee Davis say they won’t be stopped.

“This is unacceptable, and I ask that Mayor Cooper issue a public announcement directing Chief Anderson and all MNPD to follow the guidelines of the MOU that we have agreed upon,” states Davis. “Anything less would lack the required tone and direction to ensure a positive change.”

Davis said the board is prepared to “take any and all legal action” if MNPD does not comply.

Late Wednesday, Metro Police sent a statement to News 2 saying they take exception to the allegations that the MNCO has said about them. Metro Police also said that nobody at the board ever reached back out and could not be reached as of late Wednesday afternoon.

Read the full statement from Metro Police below:

The MNPD takes exception to this afternoon’s Community Oversight Board media release stating that the MNPD is not cooperating with the COB or following the Memorandum of Understanding between the two entities.

MNPD Office of Professional Accountability Director Kathy Morante, an attorney and former prosecutor, was on the scene of this morning’s officer-involved shooting on 18th Avenue North and authored this narrative:

I received information at approximately 6:05 this morning about an officer-involved shooting in North Nashville. I met Detective Ron Carter at the OPA office and we drove to the scene together. When we arrived, Community Oversight Board Executive Director Jill Fitcheard, Assistant Director Clausi and an investigator were present. Detective Carter, who is a sworn law enforcement officer, immediately proceeded to the scene of the shooting. I stayed behind the tape, in the same area as the members of the COB.  I have read the account from the COB staff, and I am perplexed as to what they mean when they claim that we were “welcomed“ by members of the MNPD. I did speak with several of the officers and other personnel who were standing in the area or passing by. We exchanged pleasantries, as I knew some of them from other cases, or from the law classes I teach at the Academy.  However, I did not receive any sort of briefing from anyone on the scene and never crossed the crime scene tape. 

While at the scene and waiting for the investigation to be completed, I exchanged various pleasantries with Director Fitcheard and Assistant Director Clausi while we were waiting. When I first spoke with them I shared the very limited information I had at that time. They indicated that was all they knew as well. Later, I informed them that I’d been told the officers involved in the shooting were doing a walk through with detectives.  On several occasions, Mr. Clausi asked questions like who various people were, and I gave him names whenever I knew them. 

A few minutes before 9 a.m., Director Fitcheard and the others from the COB left. Ms. Fitcheard said they had been there for over two hours and it was a waste of their time. Within a few minutes after they left, Captain Jason Starling {Commander of Criminal Investigations} approached me and asked where the folks from the COB had gone. I explained that they just left. He informed me that he was there to brief them as to the shooting incident.  After Captain Starling walked back to the shooting scene, I called Assistant Director Clausi and informed him that Captain Starling wanted to give the COB a briefing. His response was that he would call Director Fitcheard to discuss.  This was at 9:00 a. m.  At 9:07, Mr. Clausi returned my call and said that the Director did not want to return to the scene, but wondered if the briefing could be done by phone. I said I didn’t see why that would be a problem. I got Captain Starling’s cell phone number and gave it to Mr. Clausi. 

I did not receive a briefing as to the facts of the shooting until my investigator, Ron Carter, came to speak with me at approximately 9:15.   Despite the implication in the statement released by the COB, I did not enter the scene of the shooting and, in fact, stayed in the same area as the members of the COB who were present. Further, I did not receive any briefing until after 9:15. If Director Fitcheard and her staff had not chosen to leave, they would have received a briefing from Captain Starling. Further, I took the extra step of contacting the Assistant Director to be sure he was aware that a briefing was available.  Apparently, it was not worth the effort by the Director and Assistant Director to return to the scene. I did give them a cell number for a telephone briefing. I do not know if they chose to contact Captain Starling.

Investigations of officer-involved shootings are meticulous and lengthy.  Both MNPD and TBI investigators were on the scene this morning.  Evidence collection and active investigation, including a search of the duplex, continued into mid-morning.  At 11:32 a.m., Lieutenant Pat Taylor from the Criminal Investigations Division contacted the Emergency Communications Center to request that a COB representative be notified that he was ready to conduct a walk-though of the scene for COB staff.  At 11:45 a.m., after not receiving a response concerning the walk-through, Lieutenant Taylor again radioed the Emergency Communications Center and provided his cell number to be relayed to COB Staff.  At 12:17 p.m., Lieutenant Taylor radioed the Emergency Communications Center again to ask whether the dispatcher had gotten a response from the COB.  He was told no. 

Neither Captain Starling nor Lieutenant Taylor have heard from COB staff as of 5:30 p.m. today.

The Memorandum of Understanding between the MNPD and COB in regard to crime scene access states the following:

XIII.   CRIME SCENE ACCESS

A.      While Board personnel will not be granted immediate access to any secured investigative perimeter maintained or controlled by the Department, once the scene is stabilized and secured and access to the scene will not compromise a criminal investigation, and to the extent legally permissible, the lead investigator may grant Board personnel access and escort them into the perimeter of the scene.

B.      Board personnel will not remove, alter, handle or disturb any evidence or object at the scene.  Photographs will be permitted.  The Board is expected to acknowledge that any case details, information, existence of evidence, photographs, or other details will be maintained as confidential as may be required by the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure or state law. 

The MNPD is committed to working productively with staff of the COB.  Deputy Chief Mike Hagar is the point person for day to day interaction.  COB staff also has frequent contact with OPA Director Kathy Morante.

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