Criminal Justice

MISSION: To maintain relationships with organizations, officials, and other actors; to serve as a potential response force for emerging and unanticipated issues of criminal justice while encouraging members to coalesce around shared concerns; and to monitor, report, and recommend actions relating to developments on the following issues: 

  • Policing practices (the COB and body cams); 
  • Alternatives to incarceration.

(A glossary of terms developed by the Criminal Justice Task Force is HERE.)

Co-Chairs:  Jane Boram and Shawn Whitsell; for information contact [email protected]


Criminal Justice Task Force Successes in 2020

  • Met with Mayor John Cooper several times about changes needed in the police department, resulting in a NOAH representative on the “Policing Policy Commission,” who has pushed for a mental health team to replace officers on certain calls.
  • Submitted to the mayor’s office a job description  for the search for a new police chief.
  • Held a press conference publicly demanding changes in police policy as excessive force was used by police nationally and locally (Sept 10). 
  • Held a virtual forum with 100 people on “Reimagining Public Safety” with representatives from Metro Police, Metro Council, NYU’s Policing Project, and others (Sept 17).
  • Pressed Mayor Cooper at our virtual public meeting of 700 to reimagine the criminal justice and education systems, with a focus on mental health (Oct 25).



COMMUNITY OVERSIGHT BOARD — NOAH and several other groups worked to develop the concept for a Community Oversight Board for Nashville to establish democratic accountability and disciplinary control over the Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD).  NOAH leadership researched the “best practices” of oversight boards throughout the nation.

  • A Community Oversight Board (COB) is an agency staffed with civilians, and not sworn officers, charged with investigating civilian complaints of misconduct by the police. Nashville doesn’t have a COB; civilian complaints of police misconduct are addressed by the police.  

  • August 2017 (meeting handout HERE) — Public Informational Meeting on COBs was held at Alameda Christian Church. There was a great turnout, with 60 people in attendance on a Sunday evening. We witnessed great dialogue, questions, and suggestions for improvement! Among those attending were the chairperson of NOAH, the Rev. Ed Thompson, and Council Members Sharon Hurt and Brett Withers.

  • NOAH leaders were involved in 20 public informational meetings at NOAH member groups and other interested organizations.

  • In October 2017, Mayor Barry committed to 1800 NOAH members to work on the COB, getting input from various stakeholders.

  • In November 2017, NOAH supported legislation on a COB introduced in Metro Council by Council Members Scott Davis and Sharon Hurt.  The legislation passed first reading and was deferred by Council Member Davis to allow time for other stakeholders to have input.


    • Continuing meetings with various stakeholders who have an interest in the COB.

    • Meetings with Metro Council Members around draft legislation for Community Oversight Board.


SCHOOL DISCIPLINE ISSUES — African-Americans make up 44% of public school students, but 77% of suspensions and expulsions.

  • February 2016 — NOAH successfully advocated for Metro School Board to create special committee on racial disparity in school suspensions and expulsions. NOAH held a public meeting of 225 people to hear about disparity and “restorative practice.” 

  • June and July 2016 — NOAH held five public meetings with School Board candidates, with commitments to work with NOAH on these racial disparities. Over 550 people participated.

  • August 2016 — Due to NOAH’s work, Metro Schools hired four new trainers in “restorative practice” that aims at problem-solving instead of merely punishing students.


    • NOAH leaders following up on “restorative practice” being used in some schools

    • Meeting with school officials for more data on racial disparity

    • Planning meetings with parents around the city.


MENTAL HEALTH DIVERSION FROM JAIL — About 1800 people are in Metro Jail, 58% black and 35% white. NOAH’s goal is to reduce the jail population by 50%. Over 30% of the inmates are mentally ill, so diverting mentally ill people to treatment instead of incarceration would reduce this population and improve people’s lives dramatically.

  • January 2015 to present — NOAH has engaged Mayor’s Office, Sheriff, District Attorney, Public Defender, Health Department, and others on mental health diversion. NOAH leaders met regularly with the Metro Health Department, which is developing a plan to be presented to the Mayor in March of 2017.

  • January 2015 to present — NOAH leaders have met many times with Sheriff Daron Hall on his plans for a separate mental health facility in the new jail (three to five years off) and on coordinating with others. NOAH has raised questions about justification for the size of the new jail.

  • June 2016 to present — NOAH leaders and a retired Mental Health Court Judge have met with statewide mental health advocates. This loose coalition met with the Tennessee Commissioner on Mental Health and the Deputy Governor about state funding for mental health diversion.

  • January 30, 2017 — Governor’s budget was announced, including $15 million for mental health diversion from jails across the state.

  • May 2017 — State legislature adopts budget, including the $15 million!


    • Meeting with state officials about use of these funds

    • Working with statewide advocates on making this into annual funding


POLICE PROFILING — Data from Metro Police show that African-American drivers are stopped and searched over three times as much as whites, with less incriminating evidence found.

  • June 2016 to present — Research on data from Metro Police.

  • October 2016 — NOAH held a public meeting with Mayor Megan Barry (The People's Platform: Our City, Our Time) on progress in her first year. Over 1700 people heard her commitments on housing, jobs, and criminal justice, including $12 million for body cameras for police officers.

  • December 2016 — NOAH Criminal Justice Task Force supported bills in Metro Council, to have police respond to data on racial profiling and to begin providing annual reports.

  • March 2017 — Community Oversight Nashville Coalition forms to work for a Community Oversight Board for Metro Police.

  • May-July 2017 — NOAH and Community Oversight Nashville Coalition hold meetings with congregations and groups, as well as Metro Council Members.


    • More meetings with congregations and community groups.

    • Meetings with Metro Council Members around draft legislation for Community Oversight Board.


A pdf of NOAH’s platform on Criminal Justice is HERE.


  • Mike Hodge
    followed this page 2019-01-17 11:45:56 -0600
  • Kendl Kobbervig
    published this page in Issues 2018-12-16 11:19:41 -0600