Late last night, Out & About Nashville received the following open letter from Eric Patton to Mayor John Cooper, arguing that the Mayor should fire Chief Anderson so that the city can move forward with a more just attempt to resolve the issues facing our city. This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of O&AN or its publisher. EDITOR’S NOTE: Managing Editor James Grady personally agrees that Chief Anderson should be replaced as part of sweeping justice reform in Nashville, but this is also his own personal opinion.
I write to you this evening to echo sentiments from Councilman Freddie O’Connell in requesting you demand the resignation of Chief Anderson. The actions of the past week have indicated a complete disregard for community relations and oversight.
The way Chief Anderson has reacted to the Community Oversight Board has been unacceptable. Well reported in the media with the statement given by the COB, proper investigation was not allowed and oversight authority was trampled at Tuesday’s shooting. It apparently wasn’t the first time. The citizens of Nashville overwhelmingly voted for the Oversight Board. For Anderson to disregard the will of the people is not acceptable.
The handling of the riots on Saturday is also very concerning to me. Especially the fact that there was a warrant issued for Justin Jones and Janeisha Harris.
Ten officers on City Hall property would have well up-ended the riot that led to a fire. Where were they? Where was MNPD when rioters were smashing up Broadway and breaking out the windows at the Ryman Auditorium? I can’t decide if it was incompetence or corruption.
After an abject failure to protect the city, he spitefully sought the arrest of the protest’s famously peaceful but persistent leaders. The warrant issued by MNPD against Janeisha Harris and Justin Jones was an outrage. Like you, when given the news, I was completely taken aback and knew better. Then the video came out of how the police cruiser was actually damaged and it showed an officer brutalizing a young black man that resulted in a complete and utter melee; yet another police failure.
It was clear that the timing of the warrants was to incite anger at the Thursday protest. I never thought I’d be so thankful for DA Funk, but if he hadn’t recalled the warrants, Thursday could have easily been another disaster. I have to ask myself why would Chief Anderson want to cause a riot? I fear the answer dreadfully, but I know he has a lot to gain by making it look like he needs more funding. What better way to say we need more police than an appearance of not enough police that leads to iconic structures being damaged? I hope that isn’t the case, but it’s something that needs investigating.
It’s clearly time for Chief Anderson to step down and for the city to conduct a full investigation of the department’s handling of the protests and Anderson’s leadership. In a time in our country where it’s so clear to everyone that we have major problems with policing in our communities, our Nashville Police Department proved that narrative right.
I know the Chief hired the first LGBTQ Liaison to the city and she has been an absolute blessing to the community and become a dear friend who I respect. But I am worried for my community. If we can’t trust the Chief to respond appropriately to protests and mass gatherings, what happens when the next tragedy strikes like the Pulse Nightclub shooting? Will my community be able to peacefully gather? Or will white supremacists be able to slip through the cracks and cause harm to our people, our movement’s credibility, or the ground where we gather?
Accountability is gone at MNPD with Chief Anderson at the helm. Demand a swift end to this and don’t hire another Chief until we find someone who can bring accountability to the department. That includes body cameras and oversight board cooperation. I will add that, even though I have disagreed with you many times, we both want the same outcome: A Nashville that works for all of us. Your leadership during COVID is more than I expected and has gained my trust in you. Your statement in support of President Obama’s call to action on community policing has given me a lot of faith in you to see this through. Everything you outlined in that speech is attainable, but it is not with Chief Anderson at the helm of the Metro Police Department.
Eric A. Patton