NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Metro Nashville's Police Chief and District Attorney sent heated e-mails copied to Mayor Megan Barry and TBI Director Mark Gwyn after criticism over possible police bias in the police shooting of Jocques Clemmons.
Chief Anderson sent a letter to Deputy DA Amy Hunter Monday saying she misstated the facts in the news conference last week. District Attorney Glenn Funk responded by sending a letter to Mayor Barry saying he stands behind Hunter and the criticism of Metro Police's policy.
Last week, District Attorney Glen Funk announced Metro Officer Josh Lippert will not face criminal charges after he fatally shot Clemmons near Cayce Homes on Feb. 10.
During the news conference, the DA's office broke down multiple points in Metro Police's investigation that could be perceived as bias. Deputy DA Amy Hunter said labeling Clemmons as the suspect and Lippert as the victim on the aggravated assault report could be perceived as bias.
The Deputy DA also criticized MNPD for labeling the investigation as complete within five hours of the shooting.
MNPD Spokesperson Don Aaron pushed back against this claim, saying the report clearly said open on the last page.
"The word 'complete' is a qualifier of justifiable homicide," Aaron said. "You either have a homicide that was completed, meaning the act occurred, or an attempted justifiable homicide. If you look at the fourth page of the report...the last page of the report indicates status, which clearly says open."
Last week, Aaron said it is absolutely not fair to say the police department's investigation was completed in the first five hours after the shooting.
Metro Nashville Police Chief Anderson wrote a note to officers Monday telling them he has faith in the dedication to duty shown by Metro officers.
"Last week at a press conference there were many things said concerning the accuracy of our reporting processes and investigative processes," Chief Anderson wrote. "Please know that I have faith in the sincerity and dedication to duty of our officers and detectives. Certainly, from time to time we do make mistakes. I understand that and those mistakes are quickly corrected. Our people do not deserve to be criticized for carrying out their duties in a manner consistent with procedures."
Cheif Anderson's memorandum said Hunter was briefed on the process MNPD uses for reports and the TIBRS (Tennessee Incident Based Reporting System) Manual.
He said the TIBRS criteria is administered and enforced by the TBI.
"The MNPD manual mirrors the TBI TIBRS manual," Anderson wrote. "Our agency is not permitted to deviate from the TIBRS criteria nor are we permitted to create our own classifications or criteria."
Anderson argued that despite given this information, Hunter continued to misstate the facts. Anderson also explains that the reporting being criticism by the DA's office is in accordance with strictly-followed guidelines from the TBI.
"Ironically, you were standing in the headquarters of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, participating in a joint press conference with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation," Anderson wrote. "And, it is the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation that “taught”, and continues to mandate, the method in which these investigative reports are written."
Funk sent an e-mail directly to Mayor Barry in response to the police chief's letter. He said the criticism of MNPD was aimed at the department's procedures and improving MNPD's policies. DA Funk said he stands by Hunter's statements in the news conference.
Dear Mayor Barry,
I received the attached email from Chief Anderson yesterday. Since he is your employee, and because you and I met prior to the press conference on May 11, I am responding with this email to you.
As the Chief Law Enforcement officer in Davidson County, I am concerned whenever people in the Nashville community can perceive bias in the justice system.
As was stated in my report, and was announced by Deputy District Attorney Amy Hunter at the news conference, many readers of the MNPD report may perceive bias in an investigation which:
1.Labels an officer involved shooting as “justifiable homicide” within five hours of the event and before witnesses have been interviewed.
2.Frequently labels the officer who is being investigated in the incident as the “victim.”
3.Frequently labels the deceased as the “suspect.”
4.Often lists the crime being investigated as “aggravated assault.”
Deputy Hunter’s remarks began with the following:
The Office of the District Attorney General has the utmost respect for the officers of the MNPD. We are appreciative of the difficult and excellent work they do every day.
We are especially thankful that they do their job which is often thankless and even more often, dangerous.
The points made in this report only address policies that can give an impression of bias and should not be viewed as criticism of the individuals who wrote the reports because they followed their policy in writing them because that is what they were taught.
What I proposed in the report was for an MNPD policy change to reflect current TBI practice. Those changes include listing the officer as “officer” not “victim,” and the deceased or injured citizen as “other” not “suspect.” Also, I suggested that MNPD reports should not reflect a legal conclusion such as “justifiable homicide” until all legal proceedings are concluded. If the box on the report must be filled and no current verbiage is appropriate, then the computer program should be amended to include proper terminology.
Chief Anderson has responded to our suggestions for improving MNPD policy on terminology with personal attacks on the Deputy DA who presented that portion of our report. Her words were accurate and I stand by Amy Hunter’s statements and everything included in the report.
I hope that future discussions can remain focused on best practices designed to assure a safe Nashville with enhanced confidence in police investigations.
District Attorney General
Mayor Barry's office provided a statement to Fox 17 in response to the e-mails.
“I will be meeting with General Funk and Chief Anderson to discuss their ongoing concerns about how we best instill confidence in all parts of our criminal justice system - from best practices for policing to how our DA and police work together to ensure trust and transparency," Barry said. "We will work through differences and we will take any steps necessary to move forward. The public and the men and women of MNPD deserve no less."