Crunch time for HB 658/SB 1407, Community Oversight Boards in Tennessee

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

“As has been widely reported, the Tennessee legislature intends to curtail Community Oversight Boards in the state. Civil rights groups and mayors have objected to this legislation (also referred to as HB 658/SB 1407), which harm police-community relations and make it difficult to address racial profiling and other equal protection concerns. HB 658/SB 1407 could also apply to other boards and commissions that have direct or indirect ties to law enforcement. This includes civil service boards, public employee benefits boards, school boards that hire resource officers, and ethical conduct boards.

“At this point, the Tennessee House of Representatives and Senate have two different proposals. The House of Representatives’ proposal is intolerant and endangers established civil rights protections. Although we have concerns about the Senate proposal, it protects the subpoena power of oversight boards and affirms the legal opinion delivered by the Tennessee Attorney General. Mike Bell, the sponsor of the Senate bill, also publicly expressed support for diversity in terms of membership on COBs.

“We recognize that this is crunch time for NCAA athletics after a weekend filled with Final Four basketball. We, too, recognize that this is crunch time for the state legislature. Community Oversight Now is continuing its “Don’t Play Where You’re Not Welcome”/ #HandsOffCOB campaign. This campaign targets the nation’s top high school athletes encouraging them to withdraw their support from Tennessee universities, especially the University of Tennessee.

“Today, we contacted the parents of 55 top-ranked basketball players from across the country. We informed the parents that it is in the best interest that their children play elsewhere, that is, to choose schools outside of Tennessee, as long as the Tennessee General Assembly continues its march toward supporting House of Representatives’ version of the legislation. We urge Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, Majority Leader Jack Johnson, and other state senators to oppose the House bill. Their leadership is needed to enhance police-community relations and protect civil rights.