The Metro Nashville Police Department has plans to relocate its headquarters, but not without a fight from local community members.
More than 100 people rallied Wednesday evening on the corner of 14th Avenue and Jefferson Street to denounce what they call an anti-democratic move that will add to the undue burdens already felt by the historically Black community.
The rally was called by the Justice for Jefferson Street Coalition, a group made up of students from Meharry Medical College and Tennessee State University, members of the local Black Lives Matter movement, and other neighborhood members and activists. After around 20 minutes of call-and-response protest chants, recited as the crowd grew and attracted supportive honks from passing cars, several speakers addressed the crowd.
The mayor announced the plans last week alongside Metro Police Chief Steve Anderson and Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall. It calls for the relocation of the Metro police headquarters from downtown to a new $23 million facility at the now vacant corner of 14th Ave. and Jefferson. Another part of the plan calls for a new $110 million Davidson County Sheriff’s Office facility, including a relocated downtown detention center, on Harding Place in southeast Nashville.
At the announcement, officials led reporters on a tour of the increasingly run-down Criminal Justice Center which houses police operations, and Dean called the plan for relocations “the best, safest and most financially sound” option given the state of those facilities. But council members from the southeast part of the county, where the DCSO operations and detention center would be moved, told The Tennessean that Dean’s plans came as a “shock” to them.
And while some North Nashville elected officials and pastors were on hand last week in support of the plan, Wednesday’s demonstrators sought to make it clear that those leaders don’t speak for everyone in the community.
Renderings show the $23 million building sitting on land near 14th Avenue North and Jefferson Street. Aola Soloman Hart owns just some of that property.
“I cannot trust man,” Hart said. “Man let me down. They need to get with the little man sometimes so they can get some ideas, but they don’t want to listen.”
Hart first heard about the proposal when she received a letter from the Metro Finance Department. Ronald Colter, a real estate manager, expressed interest in buying her parcel. Colter said a third party had appraised the property for $1,000. “I’ll tell you one thing. I won’t sell, and I won’t sign,” Hart said.
Community member and also columnist for The Nashville Pride, William T. Robinson, said he sees the proposal as a lack of respect.
“Everybody is profiting off Jefferson Street but us and they’re making decisions without confronting us,” said Robinson. “That’s the bottom line.”
The new police headquarters is not, strictly speaking, a precinct, as it would only house administrative functions. But there’s no doubt, it seems, that it would represent an increase in terms of the Metro police department’s presence in North Nashville.
Mayor Dean still must present the plan to the Metro Council.