The prosecution of a Nashville police officer will begin to make its way through the court system at the same time that advocates are campaigning for the creation of a citizen board to review police misconduct.
The groups in favor of creating that board largely celebrated the officer’s arrest as one form of accountability, but say they still want a community oversight board.
“You have a huge part of this community that … doesn’t trust the process at all — they don’t trust the criminal justice system,” said local lawyer Kyle Mothershead, who has been critical of the local justice system and who has sued other officers over civil rights violations.
“From a faith-building standpoint, this is a huge move.”
Still, Mothershead is part of the coalition pushing for a community oversight board. Several members say that the arrest of one officer doesn’t alleviate the need for other checks.
“We understand that police can’t police each other,” said Gloria Sweet-Love, president of the Tennessee conference of the NAACP. “Anywhere [police] have to have interaction with the community, there needs to be an independent body that oversees any complaints.”
Those who want reforms are far from satisfied. Some said the fatal shooting prompts broader questions about police tactics that a community board could review — such as how officers choose which cars to follow, how they identify suspects, and why shots would ever be fired at someone running away.
“He wasn’t even sure if that was the same white sedan that he was looking for,” said Gicola Lane with Community Oversight Now. “And the task force that he was assigned to, he was assigned to get traffic stops. So we know what he was after, and that’s what they are trained to do. That shows that we need the community oversight board.”
This stance is in sharp contrast to James Smallwood, with the Fraternal Order of Police, which has firmly backed Officer Andrew Delke. Smallwood said deadly force was used appropriately.
“When police work is criminalized, and police officers are threatened with prison, everyone is made less safe,” he said.
The FOP has sued to try to stop a November referendum on the community oversight board, saying that the proposed framework would cut out law enforcement viewpoints and ignore due process.