Mayor Briley uses clever phrasing to hide opposition to Community Oversight Board proposal

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Mayor David Briley participated In a town hall event Tuesday night at The Temple, that was live tweeted by his staff to the official @MayorBriley account. Observers noticed that staffers from the Mayor’s office were copying and pasting pre-written answers to the public twitter feed for the world to see, while the Mayor’s in-person answers left many wondering why they didn’t seem to match up when it came to Community Oversight and the upcoming referendum. It was clever phrasing that many did not pick up on. The Mayor’s office today confirms that while Mayor Briley “supports community oversight”, a phrase that he repeats often to critics, “he does NOT support the proposed proposal that will be on the referendum in November”.

In August, Mayor Briley said “I support having community oversight over our police department, but that particular proposal, I have questions about”. At that time, Briley’s press secretary Judith Byrd said “If it passes then it will be implemented swiftly and fairly. If it doesn’t, the mayor will implement community oversight by executive order”. Last night the “swiftly and fairly” seemed to have lost momentum, as the Mayor said “I will do my best to implement it as it is. If not, I will try to lead the community to some oversight as best I can”. It was unclear how the Mayor would “try” to implement something approved on a referendum, or how he would have the ability to modify it from “as it is”.

In his remarks, in person on Tuesday night, which seemed rather off the cuff, Mayor David Briley told the crowd he outright opposed the Community Oversight Board on the referendum, and gave three reasons why:

  • The first reason for opposition was because it budgets by charter amendment – a necessary function since Metro Council would not adopt the measure.
  • He continued to say he opposed the proposed oversight board, because it doesn’t have any “buy-in” from MNPD. Proponents of the Oversight Now movement¬† were quick to point out the MNPD not wanting community oversight of themselves was even more reason it was needed.
  • Lastly, Briley noted that he did not trust the Metro Council to not politicize appointments of the people who would sit on the board.

If you were not in the room, you might never know that’s what happened, or how strongly the Mayor came out against the community oversight board proposal that will be on the November referendum. Here’s tweet his staff posted to his official Twitter account at the same time, in response to the same question:

“I do support citizen oversight of police. If the Charter amendment passes, I will do my best to implement it as it is. If not, I will try to lead the community to some oversight as best I can.

The tweet was a clever play on phrasing, stating “I do support citizen oversight of police”, leaving casual observers with the feeling that the Mayor is in support of the ballot measure, when that is the full opposite of his actual position of not supporting the current proposal on the referendum, full stop. The Mayor’s press secretary told Scoop: Nashville there was “no discrepancy” between the tweet or the spoken remarks last night.

Briley also told the crowd that the Policing Project, which has his full support, would “make news” about traffic stops “in the next couple of weeks”. Community Oversight advocates have often felt the Mayor will use the Policing Project in an attempt to derail a Community Oversight Board and confuse the voters on what each does, even though they have entirely different purposes and outcome objectives. Judith Byrd, of the Mayor’s office, said “the Mayor views each as a complement to the other and supports them both”.

The referendum will appear on the November 6th ballot.

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