Nashville has a long and admirable history regarding civil rights—a series of Freedom Rides originated from the city and lunch counter sit-ins were resolved with community support for desegregation. But recent events have caused racial tensions to resurface. These tensions have been exacerbated by the city’s boom, which has led to gentrification and displacement of affordable housing. These recent events pose a challenge, but Nashville has a strong tradition of addressing such matters of social concern through civic leadership and public involvement.
The Policing Project was invited by the Nashville Mayor’s Office to help develop strategies to address racial disparities and improve community-police relations following two events in 2016-2017 that focused public attention on policing in Nashville—the October 2016 publication of the Gideon’s Army report, which pointed to racial disparities in MNPD’s traffic stops, and the February 2017 shooting death of Jocques Clemmons. In partnership with the Stanford Computational Policy Lab, the Policing Project performed a thorough assessment of the use of traffic stops by the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department (MNPD) as a crime fighting strategy in the city—the first study of its kind in the nation. The results of the study were presented before the city council and the public in November 2018.
As part of this work, the Policing Project spoke with dozens of Nashville residents about their experiences with policing. MNPD provided the necessary data, and has from the beginning shown a strong commitment to re-evaluating its traffic stop strategies and developing alternatives that can achieve public safety with fewer social costs.