State lawmakers took the first step Monday toward eliminating the subpoena powers of police oversight boards like the one recently formed in Nashville.
The proposal also restricts another key aspect of the group: its diversity requirement.
In Nashville, four out of 11 people must live in economically distressed areas. The proposed measure would prohibit membership requirements based on demographics, economic status or employment history.
The measure's sponsor, Rep. Michael Curcio (R-Dickson), said the goal is to protect the rights of police officers and citizens.
"Let me be clear: We are not here to drown out the voice of our citizens," Curcio told reporters. "This legislation does not eliminate community oversight boards and is applicable to all Tennessee communities.”
Memphis and Knoxville also have police oversight boards. Curcio said his bill is not in response to the voter-approved board in Nashville, even though Republican leadership in the General Assembly has expressed concerns about the subpoena powers of that group.
Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville), the House Minority Leader, said there's no doubt about Republicans' motives.
"Over the last several years the new favorite sport around here is to kick Nashville around," Yarbro said. "And I think that’s really no way to govern the state.”
Yarbro said the measure harms efforts to improve the relationship between police and communities.