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.


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