On Wednesday, Judge Kelvin Jones dismissed a lawsuit filed in August by the Fraternal Order of Police that would have blocked a referendum on the creation of a Community Oversight Board.
The lawsuit argued that the Davidson County Election Commission should not have approved the oversight board's place on the upcoming November ballot, alleging that the organizers - a group called Community Oversight Now - did not reach the number of signatures required for a space on the ballot.
The push for the oversight board picked up steam following the death of Daniel Hambrick, who was killed by a Metro Police Officer. Officials with Community Oversight Now told News4 that their goal is to hold police more accountable. James Smallwood, spokesperson for the Nashville FOP, said he believes police are already held to the highest level of accountability.
According to the Metro Charter, for an item to be added to the ballot, a petition must be signed by 10 percent "of the number of the registered voters of Nashville-Davidson County voting in the preceding general election."
The FOP lawsuit argued that for the November ballot, the preceding general election would be the May 24 special mayoral election that Mayor David Briley won. Because 82,368 people voted in that election, Community Oversight Now would have needed at least 8,237 signatures (the Election Commission only validated 4,801 signatures on the petition).
However, Judge Jones ruled that the special election did not count and that the preceding general election is the Aug. 4, 2016, State Primary and County General election in which 47,074 people voted. Because the Election commission approved 4,801 signatures, the Community Oversight Board referendum will be on the November ballot.
The Fraternal Order of Police released a statement on the court decision on Thursday.
"Yesterday, the Davidson County Circuit Court issued its decision on our lawsuit regarding the community oversight board charter change. We appreciate Judge Jones’ willingness to expedite this process to ensure the case could be heard prior to the ballot. That being said, we disagree with his ruling and intend to appeal it to the higher court. We stand firm on the belief that the election being used as a baseline is incorrect and we believe that the supreme court will agree.
"We reaffirm our position that the FOP is not opposed to some form of community involvement in policing strategies. This referendum, however, if passed, will do nothing to unite the community and its police officers. Rather, it will only further the current divide and be detrimental to the future of public safety in Nashville. If we are to find success, we must work collaboratively to build partnerships and create an environment where everyone can collectively restore the trust in our communities."
News4 has reached out to officials with the Nashville FOP and Community Oversight Now, but has not heard back. You can read a copy of Judge Jones' final order below.