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Community Control Now: Civilian Oversight of the CPD

On April 29, media broke the news that Chattanooga City Council has drafted an ordinance for a Police Advisory and

Review Committee (PARC) after engaging in an undemocratic process that included law enforcement input, but no

community input. Community organizations and “activists” have already been studying different models and looking at

legal aspects for years and are working on a grassroots community process to win an independent civilian oversight

board. Community members have affirmed the need for independent civilian oversight at dozens of meetings,

assemblies, and events convened by CCJ across the city over the last several years. At our MLK Week 2019 event on the

topic, there was broad support and excitement about a community-led effort to implement independent oversight. We

and many other engaged citizens have spoken at Council meetings and been ignored or shut down. CCJ sent a letter to

City Council asking them to defer to a community process and to focus on pushing back as a body against the Tennessee

State Legislature’s efforts to retroactively and pre-emptively reduce the power of exisiting and future civilian oversight

boards. Our letter was ignored also and, instead, City Council continued to move forward with their undemocratic


CCJ has been studying different models, and have been advised by other cities, and we know what is necessary to ensure

that a proposed board is both independent and effective. To have true accountability, without any conflict of interest, a

Civilian Oversight Board (COB) should have the following characteristics:

  • It cannot have any members of law enforcement, or family members of law enforcement, serving on the board.

  • Neither the Chief of Police or the Police Department at large may have any facilitative or participatory role within the COB.

  • Board members of the COB must be selected by the community, and not merely appointed by the city council or the mayor.

  • It must have the ability to subpoena information and officers as a part of it’s investigatory powers.

  • It must have the ability to amend the policies, procedures, and the priorities of the police department.

  • Resources for the board member’s salary, staff, operational expenses, and training of the COB, must be reallocated from the existing police budget.

Any model without these elements will fail to provide meaningful change to the systems of policing in our city, and

ultimately be rejected by the community.

Contact CCJ for more information about how you can get involved in pushing for independent and effective community

oversight of the Chattanooga Police.


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