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Photo by Roddy Mcgillivray / Unsplash


“As I took office, Chief Drake expected that we could staff the department to full budget…by the end of this calendar year,” Mayor O’Connell told those gathered at last Friday’s media roundtable.“We are excited to see a fully staffed department. Evidence clearly shows that this does result in crime reduction.” 

O’Connell appears to be backing the blue, a contrast to the defund-the-police ethos that’s permeated Metro over the last three years. But we can’t help but remember the mayor’s support of $2 million in violence interruption grants, the creation of the Mayor's Office of Community Safety (which falls in line with his campaign promise of more community policing), and his history of supporting violence reduction, and other investments that have funded groups like Gideon’s Army. Has something changed? Probably not. O’Connell’s about-face exemplifies the relationship of convenience all of Metro seems to have with MNPD.

You may recall when, over the summer, Chief Drake became the fall guy for Metro Nashville Public Schools. On July 14th, the Tennessean reported that MNPD needed just “20 officers to reach full strength.” The very next day, WSMV covered Drake’s press conference, where he told local media that Metro was still short 170 officers and cited the shortage as the reason behind MNPS’ rejection of state funding for School Resource Officers.

The police chief’s explanation provided a convenient out for Metro School’s Director Adrienne Battle, whose controversial takes on SROs put her at odds with the state (“It criminalizes childhood behavior,” Battle has said of the initiative).

Likewise, in the wake of the Covenant shooting, MNPD aslo served as the bulwark between the state and Metro in the ongoing battle over the manifesto. Following its three-page leak back in November, Governor Lee's spokesperson expressed the same sentiments he had one month after the shooting: “The governor called for documents to be released months ago. He continues to call for clarity that Tennesseans deserve.” 

Throughout the year, it was MNPD that took the heat at the local level while lawsuits piled up urging the release of Hale’s writings. In a matter of months, the department brass went from community heroes to public enemies after they became the gatekeepers of the manifesto. 

Initially, MNPD stated that the writings couldn’t be released until they finished their investigation. As time went on, MNPD continued to keep the manifesto under lock and key because of ongoing suits. Eventually, Metro Legal released a statement explaining how, in spite of MNPD’s approval, the court-ordered seal on both the redacted and un-redacted versions of Hale’s writings was to blame for preventing their release: 

MNPD approved this limited release because they wanted to answer some of the questions being raised about the crime and thought that releasing this redacted version would not harm the ongoing investigation. However, those documents remain under seal. Pursuant to the terms of the Court order, Metro Legal has not shared the documents filed under seal with other attorneys in the case, the Mayor, Council members, or anyone else.

These are a just a few examples of when MNPD’s role of patsy has been evident; not only is the department expected to run cover for other Metro entities, it does so while dealing with a system that allows a rolodex of repeat criminal offenders to run roughshod on the city. Perhaps Metro should stop using the police department as a political pawn and just let them do their jobs.