NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Tennessee State Conference of the NAACP says it is “outraged” over the passage of SB 0591/HB 0764, the new state law that will abolish the two Community Oversight Boards established in Tennessee and reconstitute them as Police Advisory Review Committees.
The legislation, which now bears Gov. Bill Lee’s signature, is “an insult” to Memphians and other Tennesseans concerned about police accountability in the wake of the death of Tyre Nichols at the hand of Memphis Police Officers, the group said in a release Tuesday. Additionally, Nashville residents will see the law amount to voter suppression, the group said, as it overturns the will of more than 134,000 people who voted in favor of the COB in November 2018.
According to the TN NAACP, the legislation “erodes accountability for law enforcement” in multiple ways, including:
- Weakens oversight/civilian review board investigations involving excessive use-of-force
- Threatening ongoing investigations of excessive force cases in Memphis and Nashville
- Allowing officers with known records of bad behavior to work without reprimand
- Allowing policing practices that have embedded racial and gender biases to operate with less scrutiny
- Endangering the employment status of current oversight/review board staff
- Giving mayors excessive power in handpicking candidates to oversight/review board members without input from voters, impacted constituents and civil rights groups
- Turning investigatory powers back into the hands of police departments—allowing the police to investigate themselves—without any accountability, transparency, and civil rights compliance
“The Tennessee NAACP is calling on local officials to take aggressive action against the state law,” TN NAACP President Gloria J. Sweet-Love said in the release. “First, local officials in Memphis-Shelby and Nashville-Davidson counties must legally challenge the law. Second, the legislative bodies in both areas must support efforts that reinforce the functionality, independence, budgets and power of existing oversight and review boards.”
The group specifically asks Metro Nashville Councilors to support a proposed ordinance backed by the Community Oversight Board that would maintain its effectiveness.
“We call upon all Tennesseans to advocate for police accountability and equal protection safeguards for marginalized communities and communities of color,” Sweet-Love said. “We must do all we can to protect civil rights, promote racial justice and gender equity and safeguard democracy.”