Community Oversight Now accuses Tenn. House of harming police-community relations, civil rights protections

Community Oversight Now group announcing the ‘Don’t Play Where You’re Not Welcome’ campaign in February.

The grassroots organization primarily responsible for the creation of Nashville’s community oversight board is accusing the Tennessee General Assembly’s House of Representatives of harming police-community relations and civil rights protections.

In response to the legislation, Community Oversight Now began it’s ‘Don’t Play Where You’re Not Welcome’ campaign,’ targeting top-ranked football and basketball high school athletes (classes of 2020 and 2021) encouraging them to withdraw their support from Tennessee’s colleges and universities.

“The House of Representatives of the Tennessee General Assembly voted to adopt HB 658/SB 1407. The legislation harms police-community relations and makes it difficult for people to have fair civil rights investigations in incidences of alleged misconduct by law enforcement. It undermines the voting rights of hundreds of thousands of Tennessee residents who voted for an oversight board or had elected leaders adopt it in their municipalities,” said the group in a release.

“HB 658/SB 1407 is written in such a way that its scope will extend beyond traditional Community Oversight Boards. All boards and commissions that have direct and indirect oversight over law enforcement agencies will be curtailed by HB 658/SB 1407. This includes civil service boards, public employee benefits boards, school boards that hire resource officers, and ethical conduct boards. Consequently, the legislation raises serious legal concerns.

“Community Oversight Now is continuing its ‘Don’t Play Where You’re Not Welcome’ #HandsOffCOB campaign in response to the vote by the House of Representatives. This campaign targets the nation’s top high school athletes encouraging them to withdraw their support from Tennessee universities, especially the University of Tennessee.

“Yesterday, we sent letters to the parents of 45 top-rank high school football players in the 2020 class who reside in Missouri, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Arkansas. We informed the parents that it is in the best interest that their children play elsewhere and to choose schools outside of Tennessee. The #HandsOffCOB campaign will continue well beyond the legislative session and into the fall recruitment season.

“We urge Lt. Governor Randy McNally and other lawmakers intervene to stop HB 658/SB 1407 from being enacted into law. Their leadership is needed to enhance public safety and improve police-community relations, while assuring that every day Tennesseans receive equal protection.”