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Hands on Nashville charges volunteers to help Metro Schools

Posted in Disasters, Nashville, Tennessee, Uncategorized, Voluntarism by Mike Byrd on August 13, 2010

In the wake of the May 2010 Nashville floods the refrain bounces around that Nashville never waits on anybody else to volunteer to relieve and to restore. That comment seems like an underhanded swipe at government response, which is not exactly off base.

However, it is disingenuous, since Nashville often does wait on non-profit relief organizations that contract with local government to organize volunteers. Hands on Nashville (HON) is one of those organizations. It says that it mobilized thousands in response to the May floods. While I do not question the truth of the reportage, I believe it is perilous in general for Nashvillians to accept a government contractor’s numbers on faith without some form of independent verification. But I digress.

Even before the May floods Nashvillians who wanted to volunteer for projects on neighborhood public schools, for instance, were required to sign up with HON for teams that were limited to a certain number of people. (more…)

Political motives and tenderfooted consulting dog auditor’s investigation of Metro Nashville Police Department crime stat collection

Posted in Crime, Karl Dean, Law Enforcement, Metro Police, Nashville, TBI, Tennessee, Uncategorized by Mike Byrd on August 2, 2010

A story in the weekend paper confirms to me that the investigation into the Metro Police Department’s crime stat collection processes is serious in appearance only. The company hired to conduct the audit of MNPD is not exactly seasoned:

In response to Mayor Karl Dean’s request in May for an audit of police crime statistics, Metro auditors have hired a California-based company with no prior clients to help figure out if the department has been skewing local crime statistics.

The company, Elite Performance Auditing Consultants, has agreed to look at police policies and practices for free (aside from travel expenses) in return for a glowing letter of recommendation by Metro afterward.

Earlier this summer I offered the view that calls for this audit were more election year pretense for attention-seeking politicians and less an initiative of reform. Conservative Metro Council members have been the main advocates of this witch hunt, especially CM Jim Gotto, who is looking to make the leap this year from the Courthouse to the General Assembly. Aside from such opportunistic office-jumpers with an interest in keeping their names in front of voters in the news media, Mayor Karl Dean is logically also interested in channeling this investigation to his advantage for a second term. (more…)

Why did Nashville Mayor Karl Dean single out Ronal Serpas on stats when Murfreesboro PD had the same problems?

Posted in Law Enforcement, Murfreesboro, Nashville, News Media, Tennessee by Mike Byrd on July 12, 2010

Six or seven weeks ago a couple of Metro Council members, the Mayor’s Office, and the local media questioned the integrity of former police chief Ronal Serpas’s reporting of crime statistics after he left for the executive position in the New Orleans police department. After a conflict between TBI and Metro Police data collection came to light, Serpas did not get the benefit of the doubt.

At the time Metro Police insisted that tracking and classifying crime was a highly subjective exercise. Like the proverbial blind men who survey an elephant, various agencies divide and interpret the data based on their own limitations and angles.

News from the Rutherford County paper, a story that slipped past media attention here in Davidson County, seems to support the Metro Police department’s defense. In an opinion piece in the Daily News Journal, editors underscore discrepancies between Greater Murfreesboro police statistics and TBI stats. (more…)

Mayor Karl Dean’s police audit plan full of sound and fury, signifying nothing except election aspirations

Posted in Law Enforcement, Murfreesboro, Nashville, News Media, Tennessee by Mike Byrd on May 18, 2010

There have been questions raised in the public about the validity of Nashville’s crime statistics …. Public safety is a top priority, and it’s just as important that people feel they are safe.

– – Nashville Mayor Karl Dean last week

In Nashville, residents had an overwhelmingly positive view of the police, with surveys showing an 85 percent satisfaction rate …. “There are concerns of the crime reporting both inside and outside the department,” said Councilman [Jim] Gotto. “I don’t know whether the numbers are right or wrong. I just want someone to look at them closer.”

Gotto acknowledged that the numbers may not matter much. “Hey, the community really likes him,” he said. “They feel pretty safe.”

– – Sunday’s New Orleans Times-Picayune

Nashville just lost a police chief who by most accounts could go anywhere he wanted. Despite general recognition, even among opponents, that Ronal Serpas’s use of a Comstat statistics system made Nashvillians, Washingtonians, and New Orleanians feel safer, Mayor Karl Dean is directing that Metro resources be spent to conduct an audit based on a nebulous complaints that he says that hears from “the public.” 85% of the public was satisfied with the Serpas-lead police force, so why is the Mayor not producing more evidence of widespread dissatisfaction to support his fishing expedition?

Certainly, NewsChannel5 reporter Phil Williams failed to convey much local dissension about Serpas’s crime numbers beyond conservative Republican Gotto, who is running for state political office.  Hence, Gotto needs media attention and name recognition. However, Gotto concedes to the press outside of Nashville (which ironically got his name wrong) that the crunched anomalies are practically inconsequential.

So, why is Mayor Karl Dean bent on helping Mr. Gotto against the memory of a well-received former police chief when most of the Mayor’s constituents are not raising hell about Comstat, given their experience of crime? There is no doubt that Gotto is getting love and support from the powerful state GOP. However, Mayor Dean’s own recommendations of Mr. Serpas to New Orleans concede that Nashville was safer after his arrival than before. This about-face makes no sense until we let ourselves think as the politicos do. (more…)

A Tale of Two Cities

Posted in Disasters, Nashville, Tennessee, Voluntarism by Mike Byrd on May 10, 2010

In the wake of America’s inattention to last week’s catastrophic flooding, increasing numbers of outspoken Nashvillians–half with pride, half with complex about others–insist that what sets us apart from those others is that “we help ourselves” and that “we have no looting.” A garden variety example is this local blogger’s assessment:

So, now that something happens that deserves national attention, you’re leaving us alone. We’re OK with that. Because we’re helping ourselves. That’s how we roll here. The volunteer effort here has been amazing …. Nobody is bitching at FEMA. Nobody is looting. Nobody is getting raped at a shelter. We’re helping each other. We’re cleaning up and we will move on.

Implicit in this preoccupied reaction is a response to the old nemesis, New Orleans. It’s a slam against another American community by placing ours on a higher moral plane. Don’t get me wrong. I concede that the Big Easy has its corruption problems and it is one of the most crime-ridden cities in the country. Whenever I visit New Orleans I’m much more on guard than I am in Music City. Wayward is also something that Americans and tourists in general reward New Orleans for being.  We incentivize misbehavior in some places over others. But that’s a subject for another time.

What is most striking in the Nashville narrative is that at its base it is a disingenuous re-write of history. It is a judgment call based on a fabricated all-things-were-equal scale. (more…)