Nashville Oversight Board May Foil Immigration Enforcement Efforts
By Colton R. Overcash | October 18, 2018
In November, the voters of Nashville, Tennessee, will consider a potentially disastrous proposal creating a board of community members to oversee local law enforcement. If approved, the referendum will impose a denser layer of bureaucracy that will almost certainly hamstring their ability to enforce the law, including the state’s recently-strengthened anti-sanctuary law, House Bill (HB) 2315.
The referendum, referred to as Amendment 1 on the November ballot, would establish the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County Community Oversight Board. It was proposed in response to allegations of misconduct after police officers shot and killed two African-American men who were evading arrest, one in February 2017 and the other this past July.
Among other things, the referendum will equip 11 community members with certain powers and duties, including the ability to “investigate allegations of misconduct against Metropolitan Nashville Police Department (MNPD) officers”, including those filed by illegal aliens. These investigative powers will allow the oversight board to do the following:
- Issue policy advisory and resolution reports on possible misconduct by MNPD to administrators and elected officials;
- Establish an ongoing review or audit of the complaint process administered by the MNPD’s internal Office of Professional Accountability;
- Compel testimony from MNPD officers and witnesses under penalty of perjury;
- Forward reports of misconduct and civil rights violations to the district attorney, grand jury, or United States Attorney for possible criminal prosecution; and
- Make recommendations on disciplinary action against police officers, including suspension and termination, to MNPD’s Office of Professional Accountability.
This broad authority, seemingly grants this unelected oversight board unprecedented power. This raises serious legal concerns, and rightfully so. The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) challenged the measure in Circuit Court in August, which was rejected by a trial judge and upheld by the State Court of Appeals, and is currently awaiting judicial review by the Tennessee Supreme Court.
What is most concerning about the referendum and its oversight procedures is its potential to undermine Tennessee’s anti-sanctuary law, HB 2315. Under this law, localities are prohibited from adopting policies that limit law enforcement officials from cooperating with federal immigration authorities on the detainment of illegal aliens. If the referendum passes, a resident could theoretically file a complaint against a police officer for arresting an illegal alien at the request of federal immigration officials, and declare it as misconduct. While the oversight board could pursue certain actions to limit the MNPD from making such arrests in the future, those actions would clearly violate both state and federal law. (See 8 U.S.C. § 1373 and Tennessee’s HB 2315).
The referendum may also permit illegal aliens, including DACA recipients, to serve on the oversight board. The text of the referendum states that the qualifications of each board member is limited to Davidson County residents who are “not employed by a law enforcement agency, has not served in a law enforcement capacity in the past five years, and [is not] the spouse of [such] foregoing persons.” Of course, the text omits any language that prohibits the appointment of illegal aliens to the board. This omission will certainly encourage such individuals and other amnesty advocates to seek an appointment to the board, and perhaps use it to undermine MNPD’s efforts to enforce our immigration laws.
In short, Amendment 1 is an overreach by local activists and should alarm voters who value public safety and support the rule of law. This will not make Nashville any safer, but will handicap the MNPD from doing their job and invite more lawsuits in the future. The voters deserve better.