Police and Public Safety

Keeping people safe is the first job of government. Unfortunately, the current administration is failing the residents who need us most. It is also failing the men and women who serve us. Our young people face an epidemic of gun violence. Last year, we had nearly twice the number of 13-year-olds charged with violent crimes than in the year before. Too many people don’t feel safe in their own neighborhood. Between 2014 and 2018, auto thefts nearly tripled; they are up 180%. The number of murders doubled. Violent crime last year was at a level not seen in a decade. Yet our police department is understaffed by more than 130 positions.

We need to come together to address these challenges. You deserve a safe city where citizens and officers are treated fairly. Let me give you an example of why leadership from the Mayor’s Office matters on these important safety issues.

For many years, Nashville has used “hot spot” policing. This can be effective when used fairly and in a targeted fashion, but the use of traffic stops to try to disrupt crime grew too much over time. These stops can put both residents and officers in tense situations and there is evidence that they are prone to racial imbalances.

It is important to note that the Mayor’s Office had long had access to traffic stop data that revealed racial imbalances. It did not act on that data. It should not have taken sustained community activism to get leadership to pay attention. Metro has now significantly reduced traffic stops following the Policing Project’s report in November 2018; however, we should have changed course much earlier — at least after the Gideon’s Army report in 2016. It should not have taken the deaths of Jocques Clemmons and Daniel Hambrick in officer-involved shootings for this to happen. Our residents and our officers deserve better.

It is the job of the mayor to set clear goals, provide the resources necessary to realize those goals, and hold people accountable for results. Here are some of the approaches I will use to safeguard the public and strengthen the relationship between police officers and the communities they serve:

      • Set clear goals. After consulting with residents and with police leadership, I will ask the police chief to set specific goals for reducing crime, reducing unnecessary uses of force, and improving public levels of satisfaction with the police. It is time for clear and consistent leadership. Mayor Briley has failed to provide that on issue after issue, notably on the community oversight board which he both opposed and supported. I voted for the COB because I support accountability at all levels of government.
      • Measure results. Elected officials need to understand public perception of safety and policing. In addition to closely monitoring crime statistics, my administration will reinstitute the practice of conducting an annual survey to measure public levels of trust in the police. I will also listen to you. I pledge to attend police-resident meetings in every precinct each year as Mayor.
      • Address our recruitment and retention problems. As of April 24, 2019, 31 sworn officers have resigned from the force this year. This represents a 93 percent increase in resignations compared to the same period in 2018. It costs the city approximately $75,000 to recruit and train each new officer. Mayor Briley’s recent proposal of a 6 percent pay increase for new officers is unfair to the officers who are currently on the force and it doesn’t solve our retention problem. The men and women who are already serving us deserve a pay raise too. Nashville needs all of the approximately 1,500 police positions funded.
      • Strengthen community policing. Trust between police and the people they protect and serve is key to the stability of our communities, the integrity of our justice system, and the effectiveness of our police department. As mayor, I will work with our police chief to more seriously implement the proposals presented in the “President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.” These best practices include engaging the community in positive, non-enforcement actions and measuring satisfaction through surveys. In consultation with our police department, I will also direct our department to identify proven, evidence-based programs to target our most serious challenges, such as gun violence.
      • Community-wide cooperation. Our public safety agencies must work better together and with nonprofit and faith-based groups. I plan to create a public safety subcabinet that brings together representatives for MNPD, Sheriff, District Attorney, Public Defender, the Division of Youth Services, probation and parole, as well as representatives of nonprofit and faith-based groups, to identify problems and solutions. It is important that this effort include restorative justice advocates and other intervention advocates who are on the ground daily. The city needs private and nonprofit sector resources and expertise. I’ll work to amplify and increase the impact of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Support Fund to support the department and its leadership and to help it achieve deeper community engagement. We should give police executives greater exposure to best practices and provide officers with cutting edge training and assessment tools. We need implicit bias and de-escalation training that goes above-and-beyond the standards required by the State of Tennessee.
      • Build a department that reflects the community it serves. Of the 1,435 MNPD sworn officers, only 157 are black and 137 are women. We must prioritize the recruitment of officers who reflect the diversity of the community they serve. That means targeted marketing and reaching out to HBCUs and minority police officer associations. A diverse police department is an effective police department.
      • Support the officers who protect and serve us. Policing is a difficult and noble profession. The rank and file should be treated fairly by their superiors, just as the citizenry at large deserve to be treated fairly. Officers need technological support in the form of information systems that can talk to each other, and appropriate and necessary data and technology to respond quickly and safely. And for the difficulties of the job, police need need full access to mental health resources.

I consider this to be a working document. I want to hear your feedback and your ideas. Building a safer community requires setting goals. Setting goals begins with listening. As your mayor, my door will be open. Through neighborhood and precinct visits, surveys, and community forums, I will work to ensure that community residents are actively involved in reshaping our police department for the 21st century.

John Cooper
615-762-8856 (call or text)