State Rep. Gilmore, Community Oversight Nashville, and partners hold Community Oversight Board town hall

(l-r) Brandon Marshall, State Rep. Brenda Gilmore and Kimberly Davis.
(photo by D. Culp)

State Rep. (Dist 54) and Senate Candidate (Dist 19) Brenda Gilmore along with Community Oversight Now-Nashville, Nashville Alumni Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, Sorority Inc., the Urban League of Middle Tennessee, the Equity Alliance, NOAH, the State of Tennessee NAACP, the IMF, and Justice for All Nashville held a special town hall focused on the Community Oversight Board (COB) ahead of the November election.

No city is perfect and unfortunately, crime is everywhere, but horrific and senseless shootings have prompted a major uprising here in the mid-state as well as nationwide.

The evening forum was focused on the Community Oversight Board. A Community Oversight Board (COB) will make police and the criminal justice operations more open and transparent to the citizens. It will help to bring greater accountability to the Metropolitan Government at a time when public trust in institutions has practically deteriorated due to some recent events. It can also assist in making both sides responsive to community concerns and needs.

Panel members for the Community Oversight Referendum included: Jackie Sims; Arnold Hayes; Melissa Cherry; and President of the Fraternal Order of Police, MNPD Officer, James Smallwood. Monet Brown, Democratic woman, 19th District, facilitated the Equity Alliance. An on-screen report, Driving While Black, was delivered by Gideon’s Army Rash-eeda Fetuga and company.

Mt. Zion Church, Jefferson St., played host to a packed house of mixed attendees, including elected officials: NAACP Nashville Vice President Sheryl Allen; Councilwoman Brenda Haywood; and Nashville’s Vice Mayor Jim Shulman. Also in attendance were those running for elected office, community advocates, ministers from across Nashville and various professionals.

But the true crux of the evening was the hot topic that brought everyone together—the possibility of establishing a Community Oversight Board to hold the Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD) and their officers accountable. The key accountability issue being addressed stemmed from the way that two recent senseless shootings occurred. Two African American males were shot by the MNPD: MNPD Officer Andrew Delke and MNPD Officer Joshua Lippert. Both shootings sparked mass controversy and spurred calls for immediate reform of the MNPD’s procedures.

There will be an opportunity on the November ballot for all registered voters to make the Community Oversight Board a reality. Organizers believe that the COB will prompt and promote fairness and send a message that everyone in Nashville should be treated as first class citizens, regardless to their race, where they were born, sexual orientation, ethnic or religious backgrounds.

The COB can act as the person’s representative and work as equal partners with the MNPD.

The aforementioned were just a few talking points from the forum and additional elaborations came from the question and answer session from members of the audience. At some point, when the Fraternal Order of Police president spoke, the audience began to ‘boo’ and ‘cat call’ him. That unnecessary behavior was immediately addressed by the evening’s moderators and Rep. Gilmore. Things moved smoothly along thereafter.

Opening prayers were led by Bishop Joseph Walker (Mt. Zion Church Everywhere); general prayer for the evening by Elder James Davis (Mt. Zion Church Everywhere); and closing prayer and remarks by Rev. Dr. Judy Cummings of New Covenant Christian Church.

For additional information or to become a part of the movement, contact: www.Facebook. com/NashvilleCOB or call 615-375-6094 or @oversightnow or email: nashvillecob@gmail.com.