Proposed bill would abolish community oversight boards

House Bill 764 would abolish community oversight boards.
WSMV's Danielle Jackson reports.
Published: Feb. 10, 2023 at 10:46 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 23, 2023 at 12:24 PM CST
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Tennessee lawmakers have introduced legislation that would take power away from community oversight boards.

House Bill 764 would abolish community oversight boards or COB’s and give city government the authority to create police advisory and review committees to make recommendations for complaints against officers.

Frank Gottie drove to Nashville from Memphis Friday to demand for police policy reforms, like the George Floyd Policing Act and police reform legislation that sparked after the death of Tyre Nichols. He held a poster of Nichols in the hospital in front of the State Capitol.

“We’re the people who have to go through this. What the police did to Tyre Nichols - he’s not the only person. We have plenty of people coming forth now and, in the future, we have to protect us. We have to make sure these officers are held accountable,” Gottie said.

Gottie heard about the recent filing of HB 764 and doesn’t believe Tennessee needs this type of legislation because law enforcement needs to be held accountable for their actions. He led one of the protests in Memphis after the release of the video allegedly showing several officers beating and killing Tyre Nichols.

“When we talk about the community oversight board, we need people that’s in the community that know what’s going on in our community on that board,” Gottie said. “We need people that’s on the ground on those boards because they know what’s going on and what our community needs.”

House Bill 764 would abolish community oversight boards.

Metro Nashville’s Community Oversight Board provided a statement in response to the proposed bill:

“The proposed legislation attempts to abolish the Nashville/Davidson County Community Oversight Board (COB) and to overturn the two-thirds majority referendum approved by the citizens of Nashville/Davidson County in 2018. That home-rule action of the voters created an independent agency to investigate citizen complaints of alleged police misconduct, and to make discipline recommendations to the Metro Nashville Police Department,” the board’s chair, Michael Milliner, said in a statement. “This Bill would require that all complaints received from residents be forwarded directly to the internal affairs division of the local law enforcement agency which would defeat the entire idea of oversight.”

Citizens’ complaints would go directly to the city government internal affairs division, according the proposed bill. Gottie strongly disagrees.

“When we file a complaint with internal affairs, we don’t hear back from them people,” Gottie said. “I’m talking about how we haven’t heard back from them for months like nothing happens.”

Friday afternoon, WSMV4 reached out to the Sen. Mark Pody and Rep. Elaine Davis for an interview. Both were unavailable.

Pody provided a statement to WSMV4 on Tuesday.

“Community oversight boards in general are a great concept and can benefit a community by improving transparency and accountability. On the other hand, there have been instances in Tennessee of board members over stepping their bounds and behaving in ways that hindered rather than enhanced certain investigations. This bill seeks to implement statewide standards as well as training for board members to ensure they’re qualified for the job and that oversight boards across the state effectively carry out their mission.”

Sen. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon

“The stuff is still happening over and over,” Gottie said. “That’s why we’re tired of screaming and yelling and marching because it’s over with for that. It’s time for us to stand up and stand our ground for what we believe is right.”

Currently, Metro Nashville Community Oversight Board has 11 board members. Seven were nominated by people in the community.

With this proposed bill, the mayor can appoint all seven and the council will approve it.