Former Mayor Megan Barry Expresses Support For a Community Oversight Board

Nashville, TN–As a collaboration of grassroots organizations working for the ratification of Amendment 1 in this year’s election, Community Oversight Now coalition is pleased that Megan Barry, Nashville’s former mayor, recently expressed support for a Community Oversight Board (COB). The Amendment 1 referendum seeks to establish an independent COB to investigate allegations of police misconduct and conduct reviews of criminal justice policies across all Metro Nashville agencies. Amendment 1 offers a community-driven and pragmatic approach to public safety that protects families and children, while bringing accountability and transparency to Nashville.

In December 2017, Community Oversight Now and allies met with then Mayor Barry to discuss police oversight. Later, in February 2018, Theeda Murphy, a member of Community Oversight Now, filed a complaint with Metro Nashville’s Board of Ethical Conduct against the former mayor. In both cases, community advocates and coalition members expressed disagreement with Barry’s key positions on policing and her negotiations with MNPD. Yet, on October 22, 2018, Barry submitted a statement to the Board of Ethical Conduct clarifying her positions on policing, particularly regarding the COB.

In her statement, Barry signaled support for a COB. She stated that, “The referendum was certified for ballot inclusion after I left the mayor’s office. As a general matter, I am supportive of the establishment of an appropriate community oversight board. As a citizen, I look forward to becoming educated on the community oversight board proposed as part of the upcoming ballot referendum.” This position is different than her previous approach, which was an unequivocal opposition to a COB. Barry’s written statement to the Board of Ethical Conduct now demonstrates support for a COB.

Importantly, at the October 28th NOAH meeting, current Mayor David Briley also expressed a sympathetic tone toward Amendment 1. At the meeting, he stated that voters should use the Driving While Black (DWB) study by Gideon’s Army, which found widespread institutional and racial bias in local policing, as a guide for voting for Amendment 1 and a COB. Amendment 1 is a direct response to the DWB study, demands for accountability in the aftermath of the Jocques Clemmons and Daniel Hambrick police killings, and calls for accountability by the Metro Human Relations Commission, Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service division, Public Defender and District Attorney, and dozens of civic, civil rights, neighborhood, and advocacy groups.

Amendment 1 is the most critical vote to bring accountability and transparency to Metro Nashville government in decades. We are pleased that the previous and current mayors have moved closer to supporting the ratification of Amendment 1.