In a departure from the tense relationship across the country between law enforcement and protesters following the deaths of black men in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City in recent weeks, Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson is being praised for striking a peaceful tone.
In his recent Christmas message to police officers about serving their community, Anderson commented specifically on their response to protests following the Missouri and New York grand jury decisions.
The highlight of his message was a point-by-point response to a concerned citizen about the manner in which police monitored the protestors without incident, which The Washington Post has called "remarkable."
Read Chief Anderson's complete letter below.
To All Employees:
It is the holiday season and this has been a good year. My sincere thanks for the work you do every day to make this a successful police department. The Nashville public is especially pleased with the work you do and has even more confidence in you as events have unfolded over the last few weeks.
Over the last weeks, across the nation, and here in Nashville, we have witnessed many protests and demonstrations. Some of the demonstrations have been peaceful. Some have been violent, with significant property damage. Here in Nashville, persons have gathered to express their thoughts in a non-violent manner. I thank all involved for the peaceful manner in which they have conducted themselves.
I also thank you. As a member of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, you have responded to these events in a manner that clearly shows that this is a professional police department staffed by professional individuals who respect the points of view of all persons. Again, thank you for showing the Nashville public that, individually and collectively, they have a police department they can be proud of.
Obviously, as you have come to know over your police career, not everyone will understand or agree with the manner in which we have responded during these demonstrations. In any endeavor we undertake, decisions should be made with a view toward producing the best outcome for all of Nashville. Our decisions must be made with this in the forefront. However, in that we work for the public, public opinion should be given consideration in the decision making process in matters such as this.
Overwhelmingly, in comments that have been directed to me, the public is supportive of your actions. Obviously, some have expressed disagreement. Most have stated their disapproval in a well thought out and rational manner. Their thoughts should be respected and given consideration.
However, as in any similar issue, there is a fringe, generally about 5 percent, on either end of the approval spectrum that have very strong views. It is readily apparent that their thought processes are driven, not by what has occurred during the demonstration, but more by the social positions taken by the demonstrators.
Clearly, they are more angry at the thoughts expressed by the demonstrators than how the demonstrations are being conducted. While I respect their right to take that position, we cannot allow those views to be a part of our decision making process. Decisions need to be made with a view toward what is best for all of Nashville.
Below is my reply to one such email I received. I have removed the name and other identifying information from the email in order to respect the privacy of the individual.
Again, the Nashville public is very proud of you and the work you have done over the last years. The confidence and support of the public is continually and loudly expressed to both me and the mayor at any time we are out in the public. Thank you for making this a very impressive police department — another thing we can celebrate during this holiday season.
I wish you and your family well during the holidays and I am predicting, thanks to the work that you do day in and day out, that we will have another very successful year.
I wanted to send you this email to express my frustration and outrage at how the situation of these protesters is being handled in Nashville. The first night protesters marched here after the incidents in Ferguson they never should have been allowed to shut down the interstate. Instead of at least threatening to arrest them, they were served coffee and hot chocolate. I don't feel that is an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars. It sends a message that they can do whatever they want and will be rewarded. Then, this past week, more protesters march around downtown for three or more hours and once again, no arrests, and it took THP to keep them from getting on the interstate again. Saturday night, marching and "die ins" at Opry Mills mall. How long are we going to allow these people to disrupt our city?
I have a son who I have raised to respect police officers and other authority figures, but if he comes to me today and asks, "Why are the police allowing this?" I wouldn't have a good answer. If any other group of people wanted to march around the streets they would have to get a permit weeks or months in advance, and I know it's not possible to get a permit to obstruct traffic and walk on the interstate.
Please understand I am not trying to disrespect you or your department, I just want myself and my family to feel that our city is safe, and right now we don't feel that way. Is this going to be allowed to continue until someone gets hurt? Protection of the city should be coming from MNPD, not THP. I also understand that you get direction from the mayor's office, but these actions are putting the department at disharmony from the majority of the citizens. At some point you are going to have to answer this question to yourself — "Am I following or giving orders that help or hurt the community?" In closing, if these recent actions have been due to pressure from the mayor's office, please reach out to the people of Nashville, there are many who will gladly contact the mayor's office as well.
Sincerely, ________ __________
[Reply to Email]
While I certainly appreciate your offer to intercede on my behalf with our mayor, you should know that the mayor has not issued any order, directive or instruction on the matter with which you take issue. All decisions concerning the police department's reaction to the recent demonstrations have been made within the police department and approved by me. Therefore, any reasons or rationale supporting your proposal as what would be the best approach for all of Nashville, and not just a method of utilizing the police department to enforce a personal agenda, should be directed to me.
In that your thoughts deserve consideration, I will attempt to address some of the issues you have raised:
• Has consideration been given as to whether the response of the police department "help or hurt the community."