A letter posted by Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson is going viral this weekend. The Chief shared the letter on Nashville and Davidson County's government website the day after Christmas, and now it's being shared across social media, with the Chief being lauded as an example to other police departments. It's a response to a complainant who says protests that began in Ferguson, Missouri, and have made their way to Nashville -- and other cites -- are frustrating and outrageous, and should be stopped.
Sharing the email with identifying information redacted, the Chief responded, point by point.
The email to the chief had several key complaints:
- Protesters were allowed to "shut down" an interstate.
- They were served coffee and hot chocolate, instead of being arrested.
- They continue to protest, and be allowed to do so, staging 'die-ins.'
- The writer teaches his son respect for police authority, but doesn't know how to explain that police are allowing protests.
- Most citizens are unhappy with the Nashville police for not stopping the protests.
- Nashville citizens do not feel safe with protests being staged.
The police chief's entire response is well worth reading, but here are some highlights.
For the notion that most of Nashville's citizenry is upset with the police department, the chief disagrees.
"While I don't doubt that you sincerely believe that your thoughts represent the majority of citizens, I would ask you to consider the following before you chisel those thoughts in stone.
As imperfect humans, we have a tendency to limit our association with other persons to those persons who are most like us. Unfortunately, there is even more of a human tendency to stay within our comfort zone by further narrowing those associations to those persons who share our thoughts and opinions."
On the writer's fear for his family's safety, the chief said this.
"I have to admit, I am somewhat puzzled by this announcement. None of the demonstrators in this city have in any way exhibited any propensity for violence or indicated, even verbally, that they would harm anyone. I can understand how you may feel that your ideologies have been questioned but I am not aware of any occurrence that would give reason for someone to feel physically threatened."
Perhaps the most unusual and surprising part of the police chief's response is to the notion that children should be taught to respect police authority. The Chief first calls out the writer for the "how will I tell my child" line of argument, then offers some suggestions.
"First, it is laudable that you are teaching your son respect for the police and other authority figures. However, a better lesson might be that it is the government the police serve that should be respected. The police are merely a representative of a government formed by the people for the people—for all people. Being respectful of the government would mean being respectful of all persons, no matter what their views."
Chief Anderson then offers a hypothetical case in which the writer may appreciate police flexibility.
"Although this is unlikely, given your zero tolerance stance, suppose that, by accident or perhaps inattention, you found yourself going 40 miles per hour in a 30 miles per hour zone and that you were stopped by a police officer. Then, after making assurances that licenses were in order and that there were no outstanding warrants, the officer asked you not to speed again and did not issue a citation, but merely sent you on your way.
As you have suggested, a question may come to you from the back seat, "How can I respect the police if they will not enforce the law?" In the event this does occur, here are some facts that might help you answer that question."
He also cites statistics. Only about one in six traffic stops results in a ticket, he says, and hints that the letter writer might find himself unable to explain to his son, in such a case, why he doesn't insist on a ticket being issued to himself, if he teaches his son that every minor infraction must result in punishment.
Chief Anderson then suggests that a better lesson for the letter writer's son might be tolerance, respect, and consideration for the views of all members of society.
Since Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson's statement was shared on the department's official Facebook page, it has begun to go viral, with numerous shares and comments from appreciative citizens. Many are saying it would be an excellent model for other departments.
[photo credit: jeffrey_putney]