Former Knoxville mayor speaks out against gutting police oversight panels

Former Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe is speaking out against legislative efforts to gut police oversight boards in Tennessee’s three biggest cities.

Ashe, a former Republican state senator and U.S. ambassador to Poland, noted in his Shopper News column that he created Knoxville’s Police Advisory Review Commission, or PARC, by executive order 20 years ago and that it was was made permanent by unanimous City Council vote two years later.

“PARC has worked well in Knoxville and has stood the test of time. It has gone a long way to establish credibility and objectivity in disputes involving the Police Department,” Ashe wrote. “It is unfortunate that legislation to weaken it is pending, when it has been a credit to Knoxville.”

The Knoxville City Council last week passed a resolution urging its legislative delegation to oppose the bill seeking to strip civilian police oversight commissions of subpoena powers.

Nashville voters in November overwhelmingly approved creating an oversight panel to investigate allegations made against the local police department despite vociferous opposition from the Fraternal Order of Police. Republican sponsors of the legislation to curb investigatory powers say it’s not in response to the creation of the Nashville panel.

Knoxville’s PARC has never issued a subpoena, but supporters say the power to do so compels witnesses to be more cooperative. Knoxville Police Chief Eve Thomas said she “fully supports” the resolution passed by the City Council.


21 Responses to Former Knoxville mayor speaks out against gutting police oversight panels

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    Stuart I. Anderson says:

    Now that we have heard from one of the leading spokesman of the centrist capitulationist wing of the Republican Party, conservatives can go ahead and defang these mischievous police oversight boards with confidence knowing they are almost certainly right to do so.

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      Christina Norris says:

      Stuart Anderson attempts to smear the character of Victor Ashe instead of addressing the substance of Victor Ashe’s timely message. Republicans claim they want limited government! But the Republicans in our State Legislature are eager to interfere with laws and processes approved by the local government in Knoxville and, in Nashville, by a clear majority of voters. Hypocrites.
      No one is against the police. Oversight Boards are necessary because of the actions of a few rogue officers who use excessive force and have escaped accountability for many years due to disputed evidence. Now that cameras are, in some cases, revealing an obvious use of excessive force to the public, the public is demanding accountability. But the State Legislature is more interested in protecting a few rogue, murderous police officers, as rare as they are, than in keeping their hands off the accountability measures created by local governments and the people.

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        Stuart I. Anderson says:

        I can understand your confusion, perhaps I can help. What we limited government enthusiasts mean is that government should be limited in the functions that it undertakes NOT in its ability to carry out the few functions that we SHOULD delegate to it. Protecting citizens against violent predators is one of those basic delegated functions. We limited government fans simply don’t want to disadvantage law enforcement from protecting citizens by members of the grievance industry tying up the police in endless “investigations” through the use of “oversight boards.”

        However inconvenient it might be to the liberals in our liberal ghettos, local governments can only approve of such “laws and processes” as the state empowers them to do so. It is irrelevant by what majorities in the localities are in favor of such laws and processes. The majority of people in the state through their chosen members of the General Assembly appear to be hostile to the mischief making potential of these so called “oversight boards” so I look forward to laws that will sharply limit their authority or ban them altogether. In this case, that statewide majority is the relevant electorate.

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    Eddie White says:

    It seems to me that law enforcement already has a tough enough job without adding this additional layer of oversight. My additional concern is the make-up of these oversight boards. They will be political animals, and I really don’t have a lot of confidence in the big city politicians in Tennessee, particularly Nashville and Memphis.

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    James White says:

    Dangerous Trends Toward Civilian Police Review Boards
    For nearly 50 years, a deadly and effective attack has been orchestrated against local police departments all throughout the United States and most Americans do not even realize it is happening. The very organizations which are to provide front-line protection against lawlessness in our communities are being targeted. The reason: to neutralize the ability of the local police to identify and intercede criminals and terrorists who would disrupt our peaceful communities. This in turn would lead to the dissolution of strong local self-government, which is the cornerstone of our republican form of government in the United States.
    “Another Police-Involved Shooting”
    Any time a police officer is involved in a shooting, the headlines writers scream out “Another police-involved shooting has taken place!” It gives one the feeling that the police should be the last people to use weapons, if at all. Nothing is said about the thousands of incidents police are confronted with daily where no weapons are used. Calls for investigations immediately follow and some citizens and lawyers smell lawsuits in the making. Closely behind these incidents are cries from liberal organizations and politicians that a group of untrained civilians should be brought in to investigate and review these cases of police activity. These are called Civilian Police Review Boards. Such is the case facing my city of Mesa, Arizona, now the 40 th largest city in the nation.
    Civilian Police Review Board Prohibited by City Charter
    Fortunately, it won’t be very easy to do. In 1967, a 14-member Board of Freeholders was assembled to write the City Charter. Serving on that board was Louis Stradling, a student of constitutional government for many decades. He had made a study of those who want to weaken local police in America and was instrumental in having the following words inserted into the City Charter: “A civilian Police Review Board is prohibited by this charter.” Since then, the wisdom of that move become apparent. Because of recent unfortunate shootings in our city and the renewed call for civilian Police Review Board, I asked Mr. Stradling where he obtained his background information in 1967. He reminded me that W. Cleon Skousen had just published a book on that subject in 1966!
    Subversives Invent the Concept of Civilian Police Review Boards
    Of course, our own Dr. Skousen is eminently qualified to write about this subject. He spent 16 years with the FBI where he had assignments directly from J. Edgar Hoover to help local police establish training academies. Mr. Hoover asked him to research subversive organizations and activities. Dr. Skousen served as Chief of Police of a major city and editorial director of LAW and ORDER, the most widely distributed police magazine in the United States. Time magazine said he had “run a model police force.” His accumulated wisdom was compiled in his book Notes to the New Chief which many new police chiefs used to get a jump start in their duties.
    Here are excerpts from Dr. Skousen’s 1966 writings on the present subject:
    “It was during this same visit to New York that I spoke at length with Dr. Bella Dodd, former member of the National Committee of the Communist Party who defected in 1948. During this conversation I brought up the subject of police review boards and she stated that she was appalled at the success of the Communist Party and its cadre of fellow travelers in persuading New York politicians to accept the idea of a civilian police review board. I asked her how the idea originated and she said it was invented by the Communist Party in the 1930’s when it was felt that the country was ripe for revolution. The idea was to somehow get the police out from under the control of elected officials and subject the police to the discipline of a “civilian” group which the Party could infiltrate and control. She stated that by this means they intended to mete out harsh and arbitrary punishment against the police until they were intimidated into a benumbed, neutralized, impotent and non-functioning agency.
    Why the Demand for Civilian Review Boards Caught On
    “The hate campaign against the police was a natural for Communist and left-wing propaganda purposes. Because the police are the authoritative symbol of law and order the American public is extremely sensitive to the slightest hint that they may be abusing their power. This is a healthy situation so long as the public is getting the true facts, but what happens when the people are fed a continuous and heavy propaganda diet of deliberate lies? Unfortunately, experience has proven that they are just as damaging on a temporary basis as though they were true.
    “Not only is public confidence shaken in the police by the poisonous hate campaign and the deliberate lies, but there is also the occasional incident when some police officer actually does use bad judgment. Whenever this happens the Communist-left-wing coalition snatches it up and joyfully proceeds to paint a grossly exaggerated version of the incident and present it to the public as being typical of all police. This is offered as proof positive that a band of uniformed blackguards are brutalizing the whole community and the only way to protect the public from their sadistic savagery is to immediately set up a civilian police review board.
    “In such an emotionally-charged atmosphere it is easy for Professional politicians to suddenly decide that here is a wonderful campaign issue which could be made highly popular. They therefore seize upon the idea of a civilian review board and start blowing the Communist trumpet louder than the Communists themselves. This happened in the New York City mayoralty campaign during 1965. Even in the primaries, every single candidate came out for a civilian review board except one, William Buckley.
    “Of course, the whole basis for the argument that civilian review boards should be set up is the rather fantastic illusion that (1) there is widespread police brutality, and (2) a civilian review board is the only way the people can protect themselves from police brutality.
    “They keep missing the point that when these wild charges are carefully investigated by the FBI or other responsible agencies they do, with very rare exceptions, turn out to be deliberate fabrications.
    “They also overlook the fact that every incorporated community and every county government in the United States already has elaborate machinery available — both administrative and judicial — to deal with any instances of abusive or illegal police activity.
    Citizen Talking Points Against Civilian Police Review Boards
    “The legal basis for such boards is lacking . The Supreme Court of New York recently held that the city of Rochester had no authority to compel policemen to undergo a judicial review of their conduct by a group of private citizens.
    “No proof of any need for such a board : Elaborate legal machinery already exists for the channeling of complaints against the police. These include the police chief (who has more reason than anyone to ferret out any irregularities in his department), the civilian police commissioner (whose job was originally created to receive complaints from the public), the members of the city council, the mayor, the city attorney, the district attorney, the U.S. Attorney, the FBI, the grand jury and the Federal Grand Jury. All of these have remedial jurisdiction over charges of civil rights violations by police. Long ago it was claimed that local officials would cover up these violations but no such excuse can be used today because for several years charges of police brutality have been within the jurisdiction of the FBI and subject to Federal prosecution.
    “These boards are conducive to the intimidation of police personnel : Because the power to discipline is the power to control, the Civilian Review Board takes the police department out from under the people’s elected representatives and places them under a politically oriented and often biased group of lay people who neither know nor understand police problems. During the 1964 riots FBI investigators discovered that departments under Civilian Review Boards were so fearful of reprisal in case they took action where certain minority groups were involved that they were virtually paralyzed. As J. Edgar Hoover reported: “Where there is an outside civilian review board the restraint of the police was so great that effective action against the rioters appeared to be impossible.”
    “Police subjected to double jeopardy : In Philadelphia, the first city to try a Civilian Review Board, it was found that even after an officer had been cleared by the courts of an offense, the review board continued to harass the officer and threaten him with penalization.
    “Civilian Review Board idea originally created to subvert U.S. police . It is obvious that the removal of the police from the discipline and control of the city’s elected representatives and making them subservient to a small group of private citizens creates a perfect setup for any subversive group desiring to infiltrate the Review Board and intimidate the police. Therefore, as Dr. Bella Dodd, former national officer of the Communist Party, has pointed out, the whole idea of setting up Civilian Review Boards was invented by the Communist Party three decades ago. Their object, she says, was to gain control of the police and paralyze them when riots and violence were instigated. And as J. Edgar Hoover has already indicated, this is exactly what happens.
    “Motives of those now promoting Civilian Review Boards are highly questionable . The American Civil Liberties Union which is waging a nationwide campaign to place the police under Civilian Review Boards has been investigated many times for suspected subversive activities. And while the ACLU has never been proven to be under the discipline of the Communist Party per se, its director from 1920 to 1940 was Harry F. Ward who has been identified by former leaders of the Communist Party as a member. A Federal legislative committee reported, “The American Civil Liberties Union is closely affiliated with the Communist movement in the United States, and fully 90% of its efforts are on behalf of communists who come into difficulty with the law.” The California Senate Fact Finding Committee supported this estimate of “90%” and said, “The American Civil Liberties Union may be definitely classed as a communist front or ‘Transmission Belt’ organization.” (These and other citations on ACLU are quoted with original sources in The California Peace Officer, November-December, 1960, in an article entitled “Police Review Board,” by Norman H. Moore.)
    “J. Edgar Hoover has issued a warning against Civilian Review Boards : In the January 1, 1965, issue of the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, J. Edgar Hoover wrote: “When carefully considered, it is clear this drive for external boards is an ill-advised maneuver. It amounts to the usurpation of authority rightfully belonging to the police commander. It is a practice which could damage effective law enforcement and reduce the orderly processes of community life to petty bickering, suspicion, and hatred.”
    “Advocates of Civilian Review Boards deliberately misrepresent facts on police brutality : In an article entitled, “Police Brutality, Fact or Fiction,” U.S. News & World Report, September 6, 1965, gives the results of a national survey: “Diligent inquiry on the part of staff members … has failed to turn up evidence of any ‘wave’ of brutality on the part of police toward citizens in the cities of the United States. What research does reveal is that civilian ‘brutality’ against the police is being practiced rather widely. Federal Bureau of Investigation statistics show that 57 officers were murdered in line of duty last year. Eighteen thousand policemen were assaulted, resulting in injuries to 7,700 of them.” (W. Cleon Skousen, The Communist Attack on U.S. Police , Ensign Publishing, 1966)
    Today, the players have changed and the labels have changed, but the intent and the tactics are still the same. Perhaps the best action concerned citizens can do is to organize a Support Your Local Police Committee to make sure the truth is always available to citizens and to have a Police Appreciation Week in the community. We must remind ourselves that local law enforcement is the only thing that stands between us and devastating, brutal anarchy.
    Earl Taylor, Jr.

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    James White says:

    In short. No to subpoena power to Civilian Police Review Boards. And dismantle all of them locally (not by state action)

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    James White says:

    Note to any police officer that is called before one of these boards. Say NOTHING. (I am not a lawyer.. nor an attorney).

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    Perry Aubric says:

    Does anyone comment on this site other than reactionary conspiracy theory outliers?

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      Stuart I. Anderson says:

      Indeed they do Perry, see Leslie’s contribution of 5:09 PM. As to we “outliers,” a review of the 2018 elections will reveal that we have just elected the most conservative Tennessee senator in memory and an even more conservative congressman to take her place from the Seventh District in the U. S. House while maintaining our Super Majorities in both Houses of the State General Assembly. If only we conservatives can maneuver ourselves to a similar “outlier” position nationally this country’s future would be dramatically brighter than it is today.

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    Leslie Parsley says:

    In other words, to hell with what voters think. Just pay your taxes and STFU.

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      Stuart I. Anderson says:

      Not at all Leslie! I have every confidence that the majority voters of Tennessee are against Civilian Police Review Boards and those are the voters that count. True, the voters of the few liberal ghettos in this state have voted in favor of these boards but as we all know the cities are mere instrumentalities of the state and the majority of voters in the state feel the need to protect the right of center citizens who inexplicably choose to live in these liberal ghettos from the more serious pathologies of liberalism. Besides, as Nashville makes its way ever higher on the list of America’s most dangerous cities (as I recall, you are now #14) the left’s impeccably bad sense of timing in coming up with new and old ways to place distractions in the way of effective policing couldn’t be worse.

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        Stuart I. Anderson says:

        Curiosity just got the best of me so I did a little digging and I found that indeed, Nashville is the 14th most dangerous citiy in America according to 2017 FBI crime statistics while Chattanooga is #7 while good old Memphis is #2. Newark is only #22!

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    David Collins says:

    Christina Norris hit the nail on the head. The Republican party used to claim to be the party of limited government. Some still have the audacity to make such a claim. But time and time again they show their hypocrisy by legislative over reach when they attempt to nullify the wishes of local voters who have turned out and voted overwhelmingly for something like a citizens review board. Such is not the action of someone who truly believes in limited government. Rather, it is the action of one who believes that “Big Brother” should control and dictate, in this case, state government’s opinion over that of the local taxpayer who has a direct interest in the law in question. How can Mr. Anderson claim that “the majority of voters of Tennessee are against Civilian Police Review Boards”. There have been no referendums submitted to the voters to ascertain how they feel on this subject. Perhaps he utilizes a Ouija board or Tarot cards but there is no way to know how the voters feel without asking them. His speculation of that is how a majority feels is just that–an opinion or speculation–not fact of evidence.

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      Stuart I. Anderson says:

      You are correct David I have no hard evidence, let’s just call it intuition or an educated guess. It has been an article of faith in conservative circles for many years that Civilian Police Review Boards are simply a device of the left to publicize every charge of police overreaching, especially among minorities, so that police are more reluctant to vigorously enforce the law when dealing with members of the grievance industry that already has the virtual unquestioned sympathy of the mainstream media. Even a cursory view as to who gets elected in this state whether on the federal, state or local level reveals that the electorate of this state is unusually conservative on a relative basis.

      I don’t know what got into me, but somehow I persist in feeling strongly from all of the foregoing that if put to a statewide vote Civilian Police Review Boards will stand about the same chance of gaining voter support as did Phil Bredesen, Karl Dean, whoever ran against the 7 out of 9 Republican U. S. congressman, Republican members of the General Assembly. . . well, you get the idea.

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    Donna Locke says:

    Well, we already know that many people in this country now want no law enforcement whatsoever, and we know police job applications are down drastically in Nashville and all over this country; so, you know, just keep it up. There is a thin blue line between you and chaos. But keep it up. See what’s on the other side.

    Off topic, but: Thank you, journalist Lara Logan, for speaking out about about the propagandist news media, which is the majority of U.S. news media, in which the old reporting standards went out the window years ago.

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      Donna Locke says:

      I want to add that the legislature, as an overstepping, tunnel-visioned puppet of the business lobby, should not be allowed to dictate to and hamstring local governments to the degree it has in, say, decisions about development impact fees and other purely local decisions. But local moves such as sanctuary cities for illegal aliens and local “oversight” attempts to hamstring police are safety and financial-burden issues that affect the rest of the state, so I see room in those cases for the legislature to get involved.

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