NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A new law to abolish community oversight boards (COBs) and replace them with advisory committees picked by each mayor is set to take effect July 1.
“This is the third attempt to undercut oversight boards,” Dr. Sekou Franklin said.
Franklin is the political action chair for the Tennessee State Conference NAACP.
The civil rights organization lamented the fact that there seems to be no legal action coming against the law.
“We find that the Metro legal department, for example, has almost put its foot in the ground and will not even think about challenging the state law,” Franklin said.
When reached out about the possibility of legal action, the Metro-Nashville legal department referred WKRN News 2 over to an attorney providing counsel to the Nashville COB.
She responded, “Unfortunately, I can’t share any legal advice I have given to the board.”
Sen. Mark Pody (R-Lebanon) sponsored the bill in the Senate, saying the state needed a universal method of holding law enforcement accountable.
“From my point of view, from some of the things that I was hearing, [the COB was] maybe a little bit more anti-police than what we should have had,” he said.
However, Franklin pointed out the mayor appoints these new councils, so it’s sort of like the fox guarding the henhouse.
“That was just a head fake or a red herring, and it doesn’t make any sense,” Franklin said. “Why doesn’t it make any sense? We would never require police departments to have the same structure across the state.”
Some Republicans said during session (1:34:33-1:34:56) that COB members had contaminated evidence at crime scenes.
“We had heard that there were actually some places in the state where some of the oversight members would actually go into a crime scene trying to figure out what happened,” Pody said. “But they were actually damaging evidence.”
Franklin took offense to that. “That’s unfounded. That’s not true—the COB did not do that.”
News 2 reached out to the TBI to get some clarity on the issue, asking if evidence was ever contaminated by COB members—and if it didn’t, why were lawmakers saying the TBI told them it did.
The TBI responded and said it had nothing to say: “We don’t have anything to provide about prior conversations; the Bureau did not take a position on that legislation.”