Panel discussions centered on The Covenant School shooter manifesto and disbanding of Tennessee’s community oversight boards
Stranch, Jennings & Garvey member Isaac Kimes recently appeared in two episodes of the Fox 17 (Nashville) political panel show, “Nashville in Focus.” Mr. Kimes is a regular guest on the show, which airs on Sundays at 6:30 a.m.
In the April 30 and May 21 episodes, he joined additional panel guests in discussions on the intersection of Nashville’s legal issues and politics. Topics for discussion included the controversy surrounding whether The Covenant School shooter’s manifesto should be publicly released, and the prohibition of community oversight boards in favor of police advisory review committees and how that could impact Metro Nashville police accountability.
The March 2023 mass shooting at The Covenant School triggered numerous calls throughout the Nashville community and across the nation for the immediate release of the shooter’s manifesto, despite the FBI’s request that the Metro Nashville Police Department not release it to protect an ongoing investigation. Lawsuits were filed demanding the manifesto’s release, including from the Tennessee Firearms Association, the National Association of Police and The Tennessean newspaper.
Panel discussion bounced from calls for transparency to valid reasons for not releasing the manifesto, the importance of moving forward with solutions regardless of whether the manifesto is released to the public, and debate on whether the root of the issue is access to weapons of war or why the community is being prevented from finding out why it happened by blocking the release of the manifesto.
In April 2023, a bill to abolish police oversight boards was passed by the Tennessee Senate and sent to the governor’s desk for signing into law. Although more than half of Nashville residents voted in favor of establishing the Metro Community Oversight Board (COB) in 2018, the bill replaces the COB with a Police Advisory and Review Committee appointed by the mayor and approved by Metro Council. The committee would review citizen complaints while protecting police officers’ individual rights.
The panel discussed the pros and cons of the change, including a potential lack of police accountability, how the state used preemptive power to abolish a board that Nashville citizens voted to create, and the possibility that the COB’s investigative practices may have contributed to higher crime due to police intimidation.
Since the two episodes aired, the parents of The Covenant School shooter transferred ownership of the shooter’s writings to Covenant parents who intervened in the case, although the physical papers remain in the custody of the Metro Nashville Police Department. The legal battle over whether the documents should be released to the public continues.
In addition, Gov. Lee signed legislation in May to disband Nashville’s Community Oversight Board. The law, which went into effect on July 1, grants any existing COBs 120 days to comply.