HOLLER PODCAST: TEENS FOR EQUALITY

Justin Kanew talks with Jade and Emma Rose from Teens For Equality, the organizers of the largest Black Lives Matter march in Nashville yet. We hear about their experience and they share their perspective on the moment our country is in. Our future is in good hands with these kids!

FULL PODCAST available on Apple Podcasts here, and wherever else you like to listen here.

TODAY’S HOLLER: TN GOP DISHONOR’S GAY BLACK TEEN’S MEMORY

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TODAY’S HOLLER:

TN GOP DISHONORS BLACK TEEN’S MEMORY: Talk about hypocrisy… TN Republicans have ignored the sins of confederate generals & KKK GRAND WIZARDS CHILD SEX ABUSERS, protecting their legacy with statues and holidays — yet they tried to to define a gay black 17 year-old girl who was shot to death -Ashanti Posey – by one unproven accusation, and refused to back a resolution honoring her on the house floor. Non-Facebook Link


Rep. Mike Stewart called it “the most astonishing vote I’ve ever seen”.

Rep. London Lamar: “That was one of the most immoral votes I’ve seen in my short time as a legislator.” ‬

‬Senator Jeff Yarbro called it “INDECENT” on Channel 5.

Rep. Gloria Johnson: “If you think that they did this for any other reason [other than] because she is black and gay, you’re sadly mistaken. They are bigots.”

“THIS IS MY DAUGHTER! THIS IS A HUMAN BEING! NOT A DRUG DEALER!” Ashanti Posey’s mother Amber Posey showed up at the Capitol to show William Lamberth & the GOP the humanity behind the 17 year old girl they slandered and refused to honor. Non-Facebook Link

BLACK CAUCUS ASKS FOR “INCLUSION” (and gets called racist for it: “HOW MANY PEOPLE OF COLOR HAD INPUT THAT LANDED IN THE BUDGET?” – Rep. Parkinson & the black caucus ask for “INCLUSION” in TN’s budget, telling the 99% white TN GOP it “hurts” to be consistently ignored. Non-Facebook Link

Rep. Matthew Hill got triggered. Rep. Jeremy Faison called it racist to even ask, saying there’s “Nothing remotely racist” about the GOP caucus– so HERE’S A THREAD WE MADE OF THE GOP CAUCUS BEING SUPER RACIST, which comes from a list in a TENNESSEAN ARTICLE.

Faison is either blind, or a liar.

Worth remembering: WILLIAM LAMBERTH failed to mention he gets💰from private prisons that oppose marijuana reform. 🤔‬ We see you, William. ‬


Here’s how they voted… “Present Not Voting” was as good as a “No”.

ALSO:

-Unlike Reps Hill & White who say they’d change their vote today, Rep. Brandon Ogles of FRANKLIN stands by his vote to help block the resolution honoring the death of 17yo Ashanti Posey… but is vague about why, other than following “his leader”. Such leadership! Non-Facebook Link

‪-IMAGES from the balcony, where protestors were arrested after Republicans rejected the resolution to honor Ashanti Posey. ‬

-Speaking of racism and statues, in NEW MEXICO a video shows Trump supporter Steven Baca shooting an anti-racist protester, Scott Williams, over one.

-Intentionally antagonistic Tennessee Republicans are being very clear that they have no use for free speech or the concerns of black people. ‬Believe them. ‬(Also: We’d bet many of these troopers have smoked weed. #AshantiPosey ‬)

-Some good news – Ohio police have issued a warrant for a Trump supporter who sucker-punched a protestor in Bethel, OHIO… Our CLIP of the incident was seen over 1 million times. Hopefully it helped.

-The State & The Feds dismiss the $25 Million medical fraud case against TN GOP Senator Steve Dickerson for an UNDISCLOSED SETTLEMENT”? 🤔🤔- must be nice to benefit from the inequality in our justice system.‬ (His company was accused of DEFRAUDING HEALTH PROGRAMS for $25M using “liquid gold” urine tests.)

We talked to the TEENS FOR EQUALITY, the impressive young girls who organized the biggest march in Nashville so far. Non-Facebook Link

-‪“GOVERNOR LEE, tear down this bust.” ‬Tennessee REPUBLICAN Jason Emert calls on Lee to do the right thing to help our state heal. ‬

WATCH: “LET US IN!” After 3 days of peaceful protest, the People are kept out of the People’s Plaza (and legislature) at the Nashville Capitol by Speaker Sexton & Governor Lee, who are attempting to make this a felony. Non-Facebook Link

“You took off your sheets and put on suits but we know who you are.” –  Justin Jones — 21 were arrested.

-His first time back at the Capitol, activist Justin Jones rides up in the elevator with the TN GOP’s admitted child sex abuser Rep. David Byrd… and serenades him. 🐔 🎶 ‬Non-Facebook Link

-A black security guard was killed during protests in Oakland and many said he was killed by “looters” — but the suspect is a vet with ties to the Alt-right “Boogaloo“ folks, who actually killed 2 cops. Related: Still 0 “ANTIFA”-connected arrests.

-HOUSTON. ANOTHER black man found hanging. ‬That’s 5 across the country in recent days. ‬

Good point.

-We also spoke with the lawyer for Sterling Higgins, who died in custody in UNION CITY 15 months ago. “Imagine if there was a #GeorgeFloyd grand jury and the prosecutor decided NOT TO SHOW THE VIDEO.” 🤔‬ — we’ve now seen video of Sterling being held by the neck for over 6 minutes. No charges were filed. PODCAST ON ITUNES.

WATCH: TN SENATE REPUBLICANS KILL 4 AMENDMENTS TO HELP REGULAR FOLKS 🤬

-coverage for new moms
-Support for people with disabilities to live on their own
-$150M for schools about to lay off people
-cost of living adjustment EQUAL TO Gov. Bill Lee’s for EVERY state employee

Non-Facebook Link

-ICYMI — THE SUPREME COURT has ruled sexual orientation is protected under the Civil Rights Act. 🏳️‍🌈 ‬(unfortunately many in Tennessee seem prepared to ignore it)

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REP. STEVE COHEN HAS ONE:

HOLLER PODCAST: LIVE with ERIK HEIPT, LAWYER in the STERLING HIGGINS CASE

Justin Kanew and Erik Heipt discuss the murder of Sterling Higgins, a Black man from West Tennessee who died at the hands of the cops in a case of police brutality. Warning to listeners that this episode contains descriptions of graphic content and racial violence.

Erik Heipt is a civil rights attorney.

FULL PODCAST available on Apple Podcasts here, and wherever else you like to listen here.

HOLLER PODCAST: THE DEFICIT MYTH with STEPHANIE KELTON

Justin Kanew and Stephanie Kelton talk deficits, and about how many in politics have fooled us into thinking that spending money on people-centric policies is bad. Stephanie is an American economist, a professor at Stony Brook University, and she also served as an advisor to Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign.

FULL PODCAST available on Apple Podcasts here, and wherever else you like to listen here.

REP. RAGAN DECLINES TO DENOUNCE THE KLAN

This was originally a Facebook Post by Chad Riden. Re-posted with his permission.

REP. RAGAN DECLINES TO DENOUNCE THE KLAN

State Representative John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge), representing District 33 in Anderson County, made it clear in an exchange with Chad that he has no intention of distancing himself from the KKK, despite being given every opportunity.

Chad emailed each of the 11 legislators in the ‘Naming, Designating, & Private Acts Committee’ who voted NO on HJR0686 (General Assembly, Statement of Intent or Position – Suggests removing Nathan Bedford Forrest bust from State Capitol and replacing it with tribute to more deserving Tennessean.).

His email said the folowing:

“Did you realize you’re becoming internet famous? The attached image has been posted to Reddit Instagram Facebook Twitter and probably other places.

People are saying that by voting NO to remove the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust you are standing strong in support of the KKK. Are you a member of the Klan? Or are you merely in support of continuing to honor the murderous slaver who served as their first grand wizard? Is there a difference?

I would like to know why you think it’s a good idea to honor this murderer in our state capital.”

This is the image Chad included:

According to Chad, the offices of Rep. Jerry Sexton and Rep. Mike Sparks responded with a generic “thank you for your message” type email.

Rep. John Ragan, however, responded personally by sending him the text of this entire article defending Nathan Bedford Forrest, the KKK’s First Grand Wizard, as an “activist for black civil rights”.

According to Chad…

I responded:

“I have heard that NBF changed his mind near the end of his life but this is the story about him that haunts me:

‘The Battle of Fort Pillow on April 12, 1864 ended with a massacre of African-American Union troops and their white officers attempting to surrender, by soldiers under the command Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Union survivors claimed that even though all their troops surrendered, Forrest’s men massacred some in cold blood. Surviving members of the garrison said that most of their men surrendered and threw down their arms, only to be shot or bayoneted by the attackers, who repeatedly shouted, “No quarter! No quarter!”

A letter from one of Forrest’s own sergeants, Achilles V. Clark, writing to his sisters on April 14, reads in part:

“The slaughter was awful. Words cannot describe the scene. The poor deluded negros would run up to our men fall on their knees and with uplifted hands scream for mercy but they were ordered to their feet and then shot down. The whitte \[sic\] men fared but little better. The fort turned out to be a great slaughter pen. Blood, human blood stood about in pools and brains could have been gathered up in any quantity. I with several others tried to stop the butchery and at one time had partially succeeded but Gen. Forrest ordered them shot down like dogs and the carnage continued. Finally our men became sick of blood and the firing ceased.”‘
###

I’m uncomfortable celebrating a man who ever did that. The only people I hear defending Nathan Bedford Forrest are white supremacists. How do you feel about the Black lives matter movement? Will you go on the record denouncing the KKK?”

Rep. Ragan wrote back:

“Dear Mr. Riden,

Your description of Fort Pillow is questionable when considered objectively. It remains unclear whether Forrest ordered the massacre, encouraged it, ignored it, or — as he later claimed — was unaware of it. He was never charged or tried for the events at Fort Pillow.

Please consult any of the following sources and you will see that Forrest was never convicted of any of the accusations you posited:

These trials can be found via a link on the catalog records on the Library of Congress Online catalog. The military trials encompass several departments:

Military Trials: Middle Department, 1862 – 1866

General Court Martial Orders: Department of the South, 1862 – 1868

General Court Martial Orders: Department of the Cumberland, 1866 – 1870

General Court Martial Orders: Department of the Missouri, 1861 – 1863, 1866 – 1867, 1868, 1869 – 1870, 1871 – 1872

General Court Martial Orders: Department of the Gulf, 1862 -1867

General Court Martial Orders: Department of Texas 1861, 1865 – 1866, 1870 -1872

The military trials are viewable in PDF and Page turner versions. The name indexes have been included and tabbed in the PDF view, and in some of the volumes a subject index is available.

Relative to your other questions: you may consult my record and you will have your answers.

Good Day,

John D. Ragan

State Representative”

I wrote back:

“Thank you for responding I do appreciate it.
However you have not answered the questions I asked very directly:

How do you feel about the Black lives matter movement?

Will you go on the record denouncing the KKK?”

Ragan responded:

“Dear Mr. Riden,

Neither I, nor any of my direct forbearers, going all the way back to the one exiled by Oliver Cromwell to Jamestown in 1690, ever owned slaves. While I condemn that institution unequivocally, I owe no one an apology for it.

Moreover, my children have ancestors who fought for both the Union and the Confederacy. However, none of those ever owned slaves, either. Therefore, neither they, nor I, owe anyone apologies for slavery.

Furthermore, there were atrocities as well as heroes and villains on both sides of the Civil War. Additionally, there were black slave owners and blacks fought for both the Union and the Confederacy. There were slave owners in the North and the South including Union General U.S. Grant.

Your historical research relative to Confederate General Forrest is inadequate. If you refuse educate yourself, it appears future discussion on the topic is futile.

Finally, your juvenile attempts at insults to a veteran of two theaters of conflict though 24 year of military service, of which 8 were overseas, are ridiculous. I have served in deserts and jungles and picked up body parts of a comrade-in-arms from blood soaked ground. Moreover, while on active duty, I have had the very sad duty of escorting my squadron mate and best friend’s widow down a funeral isle to stand before his flag draped casket…an active duty fatality. Consequently, I do not need you to churlishly challenge my loyalty to the US Constitution, especially the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments.

You may consult my record for answers to your other questions.”

I guess I struck a nerve. I replied:

“Sir,

I didn’t ask if your family owned slaves but thank you for that information. Sorry if you feel insulted, that was never my intention. I just want to know:

How do you feel about the Black lives matter movement?

Will you go on the record denouncing the KKK?”

His response? You guessed it:

“You may consult my record for answers to your other questions.

Good Day,

John D. Ragan

State Representative”

John D. Ragan, State Representative REFUSED to denounce the KKK multiple times and told me to consult his voting record for my answer.

His voting record shows he wishes to honor Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first grand wizard of the KKK.

As far as I’m concerned, that’s a confirmation that John Ragan from Oak Ridge, representing District 33 in Anderson County, fully supports the KKK.

MURFREESBORO Locals Protest Johnny Reb Statue on the Town Square

Locals Protest Johnny Reb Statue on the Town Square

Protesters See Statues as a Remnant of a Painful Time

by Brendon Donoho

            Murfreesboro’s town square is quite a sight to behold. An assortment of local boutiques and restaurants fill its outer rim, bustling with crowds of locals and visitors alike while at its core sits a magnificent courthouse which has commanded this location since 1859. The Courthouse sits as the central jewel of the square with each of its corners adorned with a unique monument.

There is the monument to Revolutionary War General Griffith Rutherford in the Northwest, a rather touching tribute to veterans of the two World Wars in the Southeast, and a simple but elegant pillar in the Southwest commemorating the city’s short time as the Tennessee state capital. Recently, however, it’s the Northeast corner of the courthouse grounds which has found itself at the center of public debate.

On Friday, a handful of Murfreesboro locals gathered on the square to once again ask for the removal of the city’s statue and monument honoring “the valor of Confederate soldiers who fell of the great Battle of Murfreesboro.” Incidentally, nearly 900 Union Soldiers also died in this combat, though they’ve been left mysteriously unnamed on this quite garish memorial. Near the statue, there is also a tablet teaching readers about “The Square During Occupation,” bizarrely referring to the American military as an occupying force which was bravely defeated by the Confederates.

In addition, the courthouse itself is dedicated, by a plaque near its front door, to General Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate General who is often also credited as the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. This plaque was placed in 1912 by the Daughters of the Confederacy, a Nashville-founded group which venerated the Klan and mass-produced Confederate statues at the turn of the century in support of Jim Crow laws.

Michael Sangetti, who planned the day’s protest, had quite a bit to say about the statue. “We definitely want to draw attention to the statue here. It’s representative of the laws that we still use today to oppress black people in our current policing system… It is a symbol of intimidation and hate and not history.”

Sangetti started his protest on Thursday and doesn’t plan to stop until he’s seen the change he’s asking for. “I plan on coming as many days as possible.  I’d like to stay out here, honestly, until the statue comes down. Until the mayor and city council can address the needs of the Black community here in Murfreesboro who are over policed and over arrested.”

Ultimately, he sees these statues as the most public face of the underlying systemic racism which has plagued the United States, and particularly the South, since before the nation’s founding. “Without saying anything, it is a visual representation of white supremacy and hate…I’ve heard from my black friends that they would notice it every day and every time they pass by it. My aunt would notice it every time she was on the square.”

Sangetti was joined on Friday by a handful of Murfreesboro residents who felt it important to make their own voices heard.

Darla Gates said “I’m just gonna use my white privilege to stand up and say that this is wrong. That’s what it’s gonna take. All of us supporting the Black and Brown communities for them to know that this has got to change.”

The protesters are asking for the removal of the statue and other Confederate monuments around Murfreesboro as the first step toward reconciling the deep history of racism and oppression which unfortunately checkers this nation’s past. Friday was the second day of protests and, according to the protestors, the reaction has been mostly positive.

“I think the general response is about Sixty-forty. Sixty percent are usually behind it.

It seems like older people are not so much behind it, younger people are.” Said Sangetti, “We’ve had people bring us water today. Some younger girls came and offered to buy me ice cream. I had one guy come and shake my hand yesterday.”

While the protestors are correct to point out the history of systemic oppression and racism which lies at the bedrock of our nation, I couldn’t help but think, as I spoke to the small, sign holding group on the town square, that there is also another tradition here in America. This is the tradition at play when a handful of local citizens decide that a decision by their city has upset them and find their way to the streets in protest. It’s the tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., of Malcolm X, of Woodie Guthrie, George Meany, and every other American who has taken to the streets in an act of radical democracy to make their voices heard.

This is a practice which has finally made a return to modern American society, and it is alive and well in Murfreesboro, as it is everywhere else.

INTERVIEW: NASHVILLE POLICE UNION PRESIDENT JAMES SMALLWOOD

Throughout all this social unrest and discussions of police brutality, white supremacy, and racism, one organization continues to get mentioned: Police unions. The “Fraternal Order of Police”, as they commonly refer to themselves, exist in many cities representing the interests of officers in their dealings with the city.

Different unions have different stipulations in their contracts, but very often what it says in those contracts dictates how situations are handled after officer-involved incidents. Some contracts shield the identity of officers, others ensure the officers continue to get paid throughout investigations, still others limit civilian oversight power.

The “Police Union Contract Project” researched many of the individual union contracts, and can be found here.

NPR just did a story on a recent study that tells us that where police unions are present, police-involved killings – particularly of minorities – rises.

To Nashville’s credit, according to the Police Union Contract Project, many of the problematic stipulations are not in the Metro-Nashville Police Department contract.

That said, recently we saw officers sent to the homes of two local activists, only to drop the charges  hours later, and many – including the ACLU – are calling for Chief Anderson’s resignation.

In the midst of this recent upheaval, we reached out to the President of the Metro Nashville Police Union James Smallwood, and he was willing to speak with us.

Below is that conversation word for word, which can be found exclusively in PODCAST FORM HERE. (SUBSCRIBE!)


HOLLER:  What, from the police union’s perspective, are your priorities right now?

SMALLWOOD:  Our priority is ensuring that our officers will be able to keep the communities that they serve safe. We want to make sure their paid benefits and working conditions are good and that their voices are heard, that we all work together to make the world a better place.

HOLLER:  I guess the questions I have are more about the role of the police union in all of this. Do you see the role of the police union as going to bat for officers no matter what, or is it more about finding a balance?

SMALLWOOD:  Well clearly you have to find a balance, nobody wants a bad cop gone more than a good cop, right, so having the mentality that no matter what we’re going to bat for you, that’s not really what any police officer stands for. That being said, if you pay for a service and expect to be represented, we’ve gotta provide you with that service. So if you’re in a traffic crash and you’re at fault and you call your insurance company and they say, “Well, you were at fault so we’re not going to cover you,” that would be a violation of the agreement that you had with you and your insurance company, and it would be similar with the union and their employee. They’re asking for representation, and it’s our duty to do that.

HOLLER:  So it sounds like you do see it as it’s the role of the union to support the officer first and foremost. I guess that’s kind of the thing that people wonder when it comes to police unions, it always seems to be that no matter what the video shows that unions tend to take the side of the officer, and it sounds like you do see it as their role, no?

SMALLWOOD:  No, that’s not what I said at all. So you’re saying it’s our role to take the side of the officer and no, it’s our role to represent the officer. Just because the officer may or may not be wrong doesn’t give us any determination as to whether or not he or she gets representation.

HOLLER:  So it’s like a lawyer almost.

SMALLWOOD:  Well, yeah, I mean there are criminal defense lawyers out there all the time who have a job to do, and their client may be guilty but they have to represent them. And that may be the case you’re seeing with George Floyd in Minneapolis right now, those officers were clearly wrong and have been charged with a crime, and they’ll have their day in court. I’m sure they have some sort of representation there and that’s probably something they’ve come to expect because he’s paid for a service through his union. That doesn’t mean his Union agrees with what he did, it means they are obligated to provide him with a service. 

HOLLER:  There’s a project called the Police Union Contract Project – the Nashville contract is one of the least problematic from their point of view. It actually got pretty high marks when it comes to police union contracts. There are provisions in other contracts around the country that do seem to set off some alarms, though, in instances like this. For instance, protecting pay for police even when they’re found to be in the wrong, or when they’re under investigation, shielding their identity, blocking civilian oversight – these are things that are not in your contract that are in other contracts. Are these things that you asked for but didn’t get, or are those things that you didn’t think were right to have in these contracts?

SMALLWOOD:  Those are things that we’ve not asked for but you need to be careful about what you may be placing as words that exist in contracts that may not be. I’ve not read these contracts you’re referring to, obviously, and my contract doesn’t include that, but I would assume that keeping things confidential while there’s an investigation underway – that’s reasonable, every officer is entitled to the same due process that any civilian out there in the street has. And the problem is when somebody is under investigation there’s not a whole lot of facts to consume and it’s very easy to draw conclusions. Once you draw conclusions it’s nearly impossible even with facts to show people that, okay this is what really happened, this is why we made that determination. So I can understand the reasoning behind saying, hey while there’s an ongoing investigation we’re going to keep this confidential until we reach the conclusion. The same exists when an officer is under investigation and receives his or her pay. If somebody complains about an officer and they’ve done nothing wrong, and the investigation turns out that they’ve done nothing wrong but we’ve decided arbitrarily to stop paying them because somebody complained on them, that’s a serious problem. You have affected somebody’s life very seriously for absolutely no reason, and to jump to the conclusion of guilt or innocence, and make an employee prove their innocence is not fair in any realm of reasonable representation. I think that’s probably what you’re seeing in those other cities.

HOLLER:  What the other side of that would be is that you’re assuming innocence of the officer, and you’re assuming guilt of the deceased, or the victim, or whoever it might be in that instance.

SMALLWOOD:  That’s not it at all, that’s not even close to the truth. The other side of that is we understand if you have a complaint, we want to investigate it fully to get all the facts. It’s not saying that you’re a liar – that’d be like saying hey, Joe Smith we’re investigating you for theft, because this individual over here has accused you, but we’re going to go ahead and arrest you right now instead of investigating it, finding the conclusions, and making sure that we’re getting it right so that we don’t affect your life negatively for something that may not be the truth. It happens quite frequently, I mean people tend to embellish stories quite a bit, whether it’s related to law enforcement or not. We all know that there’s folks out there who don’t want to tell the truth for whatever reason, and we have to investigate. We have to get the facts, you have to get it right whenever you’re going to affect somebody’s life, and that’s why officers are entitled to the same due process that civilians are.

HOLLER:  A lot of the officers that we’ve seen involved in some of these incidents turn out to have a number of complaints against them. Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis, for example, had 17 complaints, and was involved in some pretty high-level incidents before this. What is the general rule of thumb for how many of these incidents are allowed before there’s some sort of consequence with an officer? By the way, I’m a union guy, I’m in a union myself, so I’m very much pro-union. I’m just trying to understand the role that the union plays in providing protection for people that may have problematic records.

SMALLWOOD:  Well, I think if you researched this topic appropriately, at least for our agency you’re going to see that the protection that is attached to this narrative that’s traveling across the country – there’s not as much protection as people think at least not in Tennessee or here in Nashville. There is no solid number of complaints or investigations that will automatically trigger some sort of determination. That would be completely unreasonable because we have hundreds of thousands of encounters over a career as individual officers, and any of those who can turn into a complaint, justified or not. They could be minuscule as the officer was having a bad day and he was rude to me. There’s a progressive discipline scale in place, and those officers are counseled and trained to try and change their behavior just like any other disciplinary scale that you see in society. But the jump to the worst possible conclusion of well, this guy has had five or six complaints so let’s fire him – let’s look at the totality of circumstances, let’s look at what instances of those complaints. And it’s easy to go oh, well, there’s nine complaints in officer Smallwood’s file, so obviously he’s a bad cop. What were those nine complaints founded on? Did somebody review them and find out that eight out of nine of them were based not in truth, and the department investigated and found out that there were things that came into play that made them not factual? Officers get complained on all the time for writing traffic tickets simply because somebody doesn’t like to receive a traffic ticket, does that mean it’s a bad officer? No, that means someone’s not happy about the outcome of an encounter and that’s not something we can control.

HOLLER:  Whose discretion does it end up being for what happens to the officer? Is it just up to the senior presiding officer, whoever’s in charge? Does the union get involved in that?

UNION CHIEF:  The union will provide a representative only if the individual requests one, so if the individual says hey I’d like a representative to sit with me, I’ve never been through this before, we’ll provide a representative. But we don’t have any influence on what the outcome of the investigation will be, that would be a conflict of interest for us. Folks that are attached to either internal affairs or the office of professional accountability – their independent offices will investigate the officer in claims of wrongdoing, and they’ll come out with a finding. Or in, more minor cases, like you know, I stopped somebody today and they’re upset about a traffic ticket they received, the direct supervisor of the officer will review and make recommendations on how to proceed.

HOLLER:  There’s a study that NPR just featured on a Planet Money episode, about an economist’s finding that in cities where there is a presence of a union, police killings of minorities go up. The idea, I think, is that there’s job security. Do you feel like job security plays a part in some of these instances, or do you think that this is just random?

SMALLWOOD:  Absolutely not. Well and I guess my question on that study would be that did those study all encompass major cities, or what are all the variables that come into play, because just saying that where there are police unions there’s more killings… look at the facts of the case. We are trying to find reasons to blame police unions for things that happened that outside of our control. We’re trying to blame police officers for things that are outside of our control. The Minneapolis incident that is one that should never have happened, I agree 100%, and you’ve seen organizations and agencies from all across the country come out and condemn those actions. That should be a very clear signal to you that we recognize when wrongdoing happens, and we’re willing to point it out. Saying there’s more killings in a city because there is a union there, surely you see how ridiculous that sounds.

HOLLER:  You seem like a reasonable guy, but in Minneapolis, the union president is out there saying all kinds of stuff. They’re not always as reasonable as you seem to be. In St. Louis, there’s a similar situation. So it seems like there tend to be a certain bravado or challenging of the narrative by police unions sometimes, and I think that’s why people tend to assign that role to them in these situations. Do you think that there’s something wrong in the country with police-community relations, and if so, what would you recommend? I think right now we’re at a boiling point, people are looking for answers. Do you, as the president of a police union of a major city in the South, have any thoughts about what actually can be changed?

SMALLWOOD:  I think at least for the Fraternal Order of Police here in Nashville, I’m always looking to do better. I’m always looking to improve, but certainly we are always engaging in our community and trying to find new ways to build bridges. The FOP has a youth camp that we’ve had for more than 50 or 60 years that actually goes into communities and has kids that we deal with. When we identify kids on a call that may need a little bit of relationship building with the police or may be down-on-their-luck or for whatever reason, and the officer says that child could benefit from a free Camp week with a police officer, they sign them up, and then we will take them for a week long trip to our youth camp. We will work all week long with them playing basketball, or baseball, or kickball, and taking them swimming in the lake, or fishing, or kayaking. There’s a whole host of different activities that we do. But the whole concept is to build positive lasting relationships with those kids, and that will pay dividends long-term because they need to learn that we are their friends, not the enemy. That’s huge for us, that’s one of the things I’m most proud of, as our organization moves forward.

We’ve expanded on that to reach out to our community where we can identify people that are in need of financial aid, where there’s no social program that can step in and help, or where there is no welfare program. We say hey, we understand you need help with this we’re going to help you overcome that adversity. Officers can actually reach out to the FOP and say hey, we’re here on this call and Mrs. Smith has three children who are sleeping on the floor because they can’t afford a bed for their kids, and we buy bunk beds for them. So we actually step in and purchase bunk beds for these families and work to build that positive relationship. You’ve seen things like in West Precinct where they’ve developed a community engagement team and they’ve seen significant reductions in crime. That engagement team has been working in an area that had high crime, and that precinct has now seen a significant reduction because of that engagement with the community. Does that mean that everything we’re doing is working? No, we can do better. We should be doing better, you know the FOP, as much as we’d like to, there are time constraints. We need to be sharing conversations with people from our community, we need to sit down and share perspectives from both sides, because if one side does not understand fully the perspective of the other side we will never accomplish our goals and make our community a safer and stronger place.

HOLLER:  Do you think it helps when officers live in the area that they work in?

SMALLWOOD:  You know what’s very concerning about that question is that officers in the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department cannot afford to live in their communities. They can’t. They cannot afford to live in the Nashville community, and so it’s very difficult to answer that question because we’re simply not paid enough to survive with a living wage, and survive the cost of living in Nashville. We were driven out by high increases and the cost of living not keeping up with salaries. I think it’s important that we do continue to have those conversations with our community, and police officers are human beings. We’re not perfect, but we strive to do everything we can to help. You see them as Sunday school teachers, as baseball coaches, as Boy Scout leaders, whatever you name it. When they’re not wearing the uniform, they’re generally engaged in their community anyway. So we’re not just a badge in the uniform, we are humans, we are people, and we are out there engaged in every aspect we can possibly do, we just want to help make the world a better place.

HOLLER:  I ask this next one acknowledging that Nashville has not been really a part of this but we have seen a lot of videos of police… first of all, let me acknowledge we’ve seen a lot of looting and destruction on the part of people. I mean the vast majority of them have been peaceful protests, but there obviously has been problematic stuff, including here in Nashville. On the flip side, the vast majority of police have handled themselves well, but we’ve also seen a bunch of videos where police have gotten out of control and done things that are completely unnecessary. There are something like 500 examples from the past 2 weeks.

(FOLLOW THIS THREAD…)

HOLLER: When you see those videos, does it feel like that’s actually doing police a disservice when they act that way, or do you feel like there might be a justification for it?

SMALLWOOD:  So here’s where we come to a problem, and this is where you’ll go back to, well police unions are just there to stand up and protect officers whether or not they’re wrong. I don’t know the facts of a situation that happened in Buffalo, New York, or Louisville, Kentucky, or St. Louis, Missouri, or wherever any of these protests may have taken place. I know what was captured in the 30 second video, but I have questions. I want to know, were officers giving reasonable commands to leave the area, were they given ample time to leave and the person either refused or charged at the officer, or walked towards the officers. Those are all variables that come into play, and it would not be appropriate for me without getting all the facts to comment as to whether or not that’s right or wrong. I can comment as to whether it looked right around but that would be very reckless.

HOLLER:  I know I’m playing devil’s advocate here, but that doesn’t always seem to be the case. When it comes to people who aren’t police, like in Minnesota there were officers driving by people walking on the highway, and a guy just stops and pepper sprays a guy for no reason and drives off. It seems like it just creates this air of distrust which feels like it makes you guys less safe in the end.

SMALLWOOD:  I’m not sure what event you’re talking about I’ve not seen it.

HOLLER:  I’ll send you some links!

UNION CHIEF:  Please do.

HOLLER:  I definitely will. The last thing I’ll ask you about, and I think I already know the answer, but there is a refrain from activists right now to defund the police. Some people are taking it literally, and some people mean it literally which is like to not have police anymore, but other people mean that police budgets, in comparison to what we spend on other priorities like education, healthcare, that kind of thing, are fairly bloated. Memphis, for example, has a vast majority of the budget. I actually don’t know what it is in Nashville, but we are spending like nothing on education in Memphis from the city budget, and housing is also a small amount. The argument that people make is if we were spending more on other priorities, then your job would be easier because there would be less militarization of police and there be less imprisonment. Essentially it’s a vicious cycle, where the more we spend on policing, the more we spend on locking people up, the more people are down on their luck, and the more they’re going to commit crimes. If we just break the cycle and start spending on other things and invest in people, and trust in people, that that might actually ultimately help your job out. What do you think about that philosophy?

SMALLWOOD:  So, the reality is there are always going to be bad actors in our society. There are always going to be people out there who are willing to rob other innocent people who are willing to burglarize people’s homes, who are willing to break in and kidnap children, and continue the sex trafficking rings that are riddled in our society. There are horrible things that we see as police officers on a daily basis, and while social and community projects are great, and they should be funded and, absolutely we should be focusing on trying to get people to stop doing that, these people are always going to exist in our society. When somebody robs you and you’ve defunded the police, who’s going to come who’s going to answer that call? And saying we need to take money from away from law enforcement to fund these community projects is a lot like saying we need to rob Peter to pay Paul. We’re not doing any services by saying “defund the police.”  That’s not the solution. The solution is to find new, creative, and innovative ways to have our society reduce the violence, to reduce the victimization of our communities, and to reduce people terrorizing our neighborhoods. When we find those real solutions, I think you’ll see that that problem will solve itself. Policing is not the crux of all our socio-economic problems that exist in America. We are a nation of laws. Unfortunately those laws have to be enforced because not everybody wants to follow them. I think that that’s a very dangerous idea.

HOLLER:  I agree that it’s not the crux, but what others would say is that maybe it’s not the answer to everything either. That we always tend to turn to the police to handle everything, like mental health issues, and that kind of thing. That there’s too much on the plate of the police that actually they’re not properly trained for.

SMALLWOOD:  I agree that we could use more training and that people turn to the police for far too much. There are things that we need, like mental health responses. We need more training for that, but here’s the thing, when the call comes in, say there’s an individual suffering with a mental health crisis. And that individual either has a knife or a gun – are we going to send a social worker to the house by themselves to deal with that mental health crisis and have them take all the risks? I think the reasonable person in society says that doesn’t make sense. That’s why law enforcement exists. We stand on the line between danger and chaos and civility in our society. While yes, bringing a social worker to deal with a mental health crisis…there are crises beyond that that are real dangers to our society that need to be resolved. Sometimes that can’t always happen, so it’s not reasonable to say well if we fund all these social issues, we fund all these community projects, then we won’t need police officers anymore. To me that just doesn’t make sense. Even if I wasn’t a police officer, that doesn’t make any sense to me. It doesn’t stand to any kind of reason or logic.

HOLLER:  Do you understand why maybe black people might feel that way in general?

SMALLWOOD:  Why they feel what way?

HOLLER:  Why they feel like they can’t really trust police. I know black people who are afraid to call the police even when they need a cop.

SMALLWOOD:  And I think that’s why we need to get back to having reasonable conversations not based in emotion and rhetoric. I can see why, especially when you’ve got folks who are villainizing law enforcement, why there might be some concern. But frankly, law enforcement exists to help and to intervene when there’s a problem. When you look across the country… let’s just look at Nashville. Nashville has over 1 million police contacts per year. 99.9% of those contacts end in a positive or protective way. There are a few that do not, and those officers that are involved were held accountable for their actions. But for the majority, just like you said about peaceful protesters – there’s a few people in those crowds who want to be agitators and create problems, and riot, and loot, and steal, and pillage, and we ask the police to stand there and deal with those problems. The same exists in the law enforcement profession. The majority of us are here to serve our community, like counselors and social workers, to intervene in a crisis, to help where help is needed. There are a few that get painted, that made mistakes, or are bad actors, and they paint the entire profession with those few who make those bad actions. I think that’s where we need to have those real conversations with people in our communities and say look, if you want to be reasonable we’ll be reasonable, if you want to talk facts we’ll talk facts, but if you want to go, we’ll everybody’s bad because one person, but that standard doesn’t apply to us, that’s not reasonable. That’s not logical, and that’s where we get lost in the weeds.

HOLLER:  Is there enough de-escalation training?

SMALLWOOD:  We are huge proponents of de-escalation training, and we’re also huge proponents of training and general. Frankly, there’s not enough training. We would love to train more, but training cost more people and money. It takes more people to man the streets while officers are down getting more training, and it costs money to train those officers.

HOLLER:  When you say training, what are you thinking of?

SMALLWOOD:  All across the board, whether it be mental health crises, de-escalation, or any of the training that may pertain to the law enforcement profession. We need more training, and we’re always saying train us more, train us more, train us more, but there are limitations on how much training is reasonable and how much we can actually get done.

HOLLER:  Would your officers be receptive to it?

SMALLWOOD:  We already have the escalating training, yeah.

HOLLER:  I mean other stuff, like mental health issues and things like that.

UNION CHIEF:  I’m sure if you ask the police department they’ll show you the curriculum. If you look at the curriculum, there’s already mental health training, there’s already those kinds of things that people are saying police officers need to be doing, like implicit bias training. We are doing these things, like de-escalation training. We are doing these things proactively, but there’s one thing to remember, and that’s that de-escalation requires cooperation and it’s a two-way street. As much as we would love for every situation to deescalate, that’s just not always the case. There are people out there who do not want to comply. There people out there who are looking for a fight, and we can de-escalate all we want, and they will not cooperate with that de-escalation tactic. We have to rise to the level that they’re at at that point, because we have just as much of a right to go home at the end of a shift is anybody else does, and if somebody doesn’t want to work with us and de- escalate as we try to deescalate the situation then we have to come to their level and make sure that that threat doesn’t continue to threaten our community and ourselves.

HOLLER:  As a final question, there’s a bill right now for Constitutional Carry, basically permitless carry, in Tennessee. I know there are some law enforcement officers that are against this, do you guys have a position on that?

SMALLWOOD:  This is gonna sound like a cop out, but any comment on legislation has to come from our State FOP office, not from a Local.

HOLLER:  Well, James, I appreciate you doing this, I’m a union guy. I think you’re a reasonable guy, and I think that there are different union presidents throughout the country that are going to give you different answers and different attitudes, and so I appreciate you taking the time.  I hope you understand that people are just scared and frustrated, and in the age of video this stuff really leaves a lasting impact. That’s where people are coming from, and I just hope the lines of communication are open. I hope you guys stay open to some of these ideas because people feel like something needs to change, as this all has amounted to something here. So hopefully that’ll be something that’s mutually beneficial.

SMALLWOOD:  I appreciate that, and as long as things are reasonable, I think we are open to conversation. It’s when things become unreasonable and are painting pictures that don’t really exist, that are not based in reality or not based in fact – that’s when we start to lose control of our society, so I think we all need to be communicating better, we all need to be sharing perspectives. I think that a three second video does not show what a 30 minute call was. We see it time, and time, and time again where somebody has taken a cell phone video, narrowed it down to a three second clip, and then when we get the full video, we see oh, well x, y, and z happened that led to this, and now, with the facts that surround it, it’s reasonable. That’s not what happened in Minneapolis, it’s just general talking about what we see time and time again when law enforcement videos get released on the internet. Minneapolis is a completely separate and independent issue, George Floyd should still be alive today. Unfortunately there’s nothing I can do to change that, I’m in Nashville.

HOLLER:  There’s been a bunch of them, there’s been a buildup here. If it hadn’t been for the 30 or 40 that happened beforehand…it’s an explosion, this isn’t an isolated incident. I think that’s part of the problem. But I understand what you’re saying. Thank you for your time, maybe down the line we can circle back.

SMALLWOOD:  Sure, thanks.

INTERVIEW: REP. LONDON LAMAR

Rep. London Lamar (D-Memphis) joins to talk about the protests and her VOTE BY MAIL FOR ALL amendment, which led to accusations of “stealing elections” by Rep. William Lamberth.

PODCAST ON ITUNES

HERE’S A CLIP!

HOLLER PODCAST: Vote By Mail Lawsuit to Keep Tennesseans Safe with Jerri Green and Steven Mulroy

Voter suppression is the name of the game for Tre Hargett and Bill Lee! Justin Kanew, Jerri Green, and Steven Mulroy discuss Steven’s successful lawsuit against the state allowing ALL Tennesseans to vote by mail…and the state’s subsequent refusal to follow the court order.

Jerri Green is an attorney running for State House District 83 in Memphis and Steven Mulroy is a Nashville based attorney.

FULL PODCAST available on Apple Podcasts here, and wherever else you like to listen here.

 

PARKINSON RIPS LAMBERTH’S ANTI-RIOTING BILL

Watch Rep. Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis) Rip House GOP Majority Leader William Lamberth’s anti-rioting bill for completely ignoring the ROOT CAUSE of the reason people are upset.