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Nashville Police Defend Racial Policies at Fisk Forum

NASHVILLE, Tenn.

Nashville police officials told a forum at Fisk University late last week that racial profiling serves no purpose in community policing.

The NAACP forum at the historically Black campus invited community members and police together to discuss the issue on Thursday. The event was part of a monthly series dubbed “Black in Nashville,” organized by the NAACP to examine quality-of-life issues.

Nashville businessman Carl Jones, who is Black, said he filed a complaint after he was pulled over about a year ago by two officers. Jones said at the forum that one of the officers told him,  “You know if I shot you, nothing would happen.”

“I feel hurt and offended because I’ve worked hard to make this a better city,” said Jones, a contractor who helped build LP Field, where the Tennessee Titans play. “This isn’t an indictment of the entire police force, but an indictment of an environment created by a police chief where this is allowed to happen. I refuse to let such an environment continue.”

North Precinct Commander Anthony Carter said police don’t pull people over based on race, but said traffic stops are a good tool to fight crime.

“And we ask you a series of questions to figure out if you’re involved in any illegal activities,” Carter said

Carter said the stops are an effective way to deal with gang activity.

Deputy Chief Steve Anderson told about 50 people in the audience that racial profiling doesn’t help police.

“The only way we can be effective is having the trust of the community, and we don’t want anything to get in the way of that,” Anderson said.

At-large Metro Councilman Jerry Maynard who moderated the event told the Tennessean newspaper that communities want police to get criminals off the street.

“But, at the same time, you don’t want this overrepresentation of African-Americans being pulled over,” he said.

Nashville police data show, in 2008, that the number of Hispanic drivers stopped and ultimately arrested is higher than that of similarly sized cities, said Dr. Jack Glaser, a social psychologist at the University of California Berkeley who specializes in issues of discrimination.

Also, Black drivers are stopped at a rate that far outstrips their population numbers but they are arrested after those stops far less frequently than Hispanic drivers and only slightly more often than White drivers, Glaser said.

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