A group of local activists is launching a petition to resurrect the proposal for a police community oversight board. The goal is to get a referendum on the November ballot so Nashville voters can decide whether community oversight of police is necessary.
“It is simply a way for the police and community to start talking directly to each other, and that can’t be anything but a good thing in the long run because it will increase police-community trust,” said Theeda Murphy, one of the organizers with the group Community Oversight Now. “In the end, this is what we all want.”
To get the issue on the November ballot, the petition will need 4,300 signatures from registered voters by the first week of August. That's a number based on voter turnout from the previous election year.
Murphy said she doesn’t think getting the required number of signatures will be a problem. This is an issue residents care about, she said, even though she believes local politicians won’t take a stand.
“It’s not about going through any type of intermediaries or channels,” Murphy said. “The Community Oversight Board is about people directly holding the police accountable for their actions.”
The group plans to start canvassing local neighborhoods and businesses as soon as tomorrow.
The announcement came on the 50th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis. Organizers said the day is symbolic because King was an early supporter of similar proposals and it represents an ongoing struggle for civil rights and protection of African American citizens.
Earlier this year, a proposal to create an oversight board to investigate complaints against police collapsed in the Metro Council. The legislation was mired in legal concerns, opposed by the police union, and its two main lobbying groups splintered after disagreeing over details.