Police reform remains hot issue
By Ron Wynn
It has taken two deaths and several rallies, but now it seems Nashville will finally get a chance to create a citizens review board, or community oversight group, or what anyone wants to call a coalition of citizens who will assess and examine police behavior in controversial and questionable situations.
The Davidson County Election Commission voted 5-0 August 15 to add a proposed Metro Charter amendment to the November ballot that would establish an independent police watchdog entity. They validated nearly 5,000 signatures (4,801 to be exact) on a petition to make it a referendum issue.
The local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) immediately announced plans to challenge this in court, an action that only worsens relations between law enforcement and the Nashville Black community. The police are now not only perceived as an invading or occupying force, but one also afraid of community scrutiny.
The mayor continues to waffle, saying he supports creating this board in principle, but has differences with the group Community Oversight Now. It's more likely he doesn't want to be viewed in some corners as politically supporting anything endorsed by Black Lives Matter Nashville, who's also involved with this petition, and has called for the resignation or firing of police chief Steve Anderson.
Meanwhile there's no word from District Attorney Glenn Funk's office (at least not up to now) over whether he intends to press for any type of indictment against Andrew Delke, the 25-year-old officer who shot Daniel Hambrick (also 25) four times last month as Hambrick was fleeing.
Hambrick's family has demanded Funk pursue a murder charge, but that is highly unlikely unless the TBI investigation produces something more shocking than what's on the video. That footage has now appeared on "Good Morning America," "CNN," the BBC, and pretty much every online Black and news website.
Judging from some of the things said during two marches held over the weekend of August 11-12, folks have had their fill of excuses and rationalizations.
Everyone from the NAACP to the Ministerial Alliance and the ACLU is demanding change. Even chief Anderson called the video "very disturbing," and publicly said the policy being taught at the police Academy regarding foot pursuit was under review.
ALL their policies need to be under review in light of not only the two shootings over the last two years, but the exhaustive report compiled by members of Gideon's Army which showed a glaring disparity in traffic stops that was racially based.
There is a crisis in policing and a lack of confidence in them from the people who most need their services. Nothing breeds contempt faster among the citizenry of law enforcement than police misconduct and brutality, and no one benefits from it more than criminal predators.
They delight in the fact their actions won't be reported because people are too disgusted and/or afraid of the police to enlist their aid in riding neighborhoods of their presence.
Right-wingers can spout all the "Law and Order" rhetoric they like, but until police are not only willing to interact with the communities they patrol on a regular rather than crisis basis, but also stop resisting any attempts at oversight or input from citizens, they will never get either the trust they need or the co-operation they seek.
Captain Ron Johnson was a native of Ferguson, and had been in law enforcement for three decades when his entire life changed. When a young Black man named Michael Brown was killed by a white policeofficer on August 9, 2014, Ferguson exploded.
After five days of unrest, Johnson, a veteran State Trooper, was placed in charge of restoring peace to his hometown. The next 13 days were a mix of triumph and defeat. Johnson spent parts of each day marching with protesters.
He was suddenly on demand for CNN interviews, but he also became a pariah to many of his fellow police. One officer once even asked him if he were now "one of them," as though he had suddenly joined enemy forces.
Johnson joined noted author Alan Eisenstock to write the new book "13 Days In Ferguson" (Tyndale), a detailed account of his experiences. It shows both the suspicion and contempt many Black citizens hold for the police, and the equal amount of resentment and distrust these officers have for the people they've taken an oath to serve and protect.
Johnson frequently feels totally isolated, as the people he's trying to help doubt him, and his fellow officers feel he's betrayed them. Anyone who wants a candid look inside 21st century police attitudes, and some understanding of just how wide the divide currently is between cops and ordinary citizens, particularly Black ones, will find "13 Days in Ferguson" eye-opening material.