Tennessee guts civilian oversight of police, even as corruption in Gallatin makes clear more oversight is needed

By | May 30, 2023
Grant Solomon

Tennessee has long held a dubious honor as one of the most corrupt states in the U.S. It’s also the situs of the killing of Tyre Nichols, a Black man who died after a brutal beating by a Memphis police, followed by being ignored by responding E.M.S. personnel. This happened despite numerous red flags that the special police unit involved was abusing its authority.

As such, the state would seem ripe for increased police oversight and efforts to maintain public integrity. Yet the state legislature and Governor Lee — a member of Grace Chapel Church — recently signed legislation that would eliminate community oversight boards for local police departments.

Under the legislation, which takes effect August 1, community oversight boards in Memphis and Nashville would close, and other localities would lose the ability to create such boards. Instead, they would be able to establish police advisory review committees, which have no investigatory powers, but only the ability to refer matters to the police department’s internal affairs unit. 

The legislation was introduced just days after the state legislature ousted two lawmakers for protesting in favor of gun control, as well as the death of Tyre Nichols, leading many to view the legislation as retaliatory.

Corruption in Gallatin

The legislation underscores our concerns about corruption in Gallatin, the scene of Grant Solomon’s death

There, police officials continue to ignore requests for a meaningful investigation into Solomon’s death, despite the laughably deficient police efforts into the circumstances surrounding the matter.

Tellingly, Gallatin residents have lobbied city government for a community oversight board for the police department, citing concerns about racial profiling. Yet, despite more than 175 people at a peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstration in the city, these efforts went nowhere.

What’s needed?

Anglican Watch is increasingly concerned about the seeming collusion between leadership at Grace Chapel Church and state officials, as manifested by former Grace Chapel pastor Steve Berger’s fabrications about his meeting with Solomon shortly before the latter’s death. We are confident that Berger’s claim that Solomon asked how to “get closer to Christ” is a lie.

Similarly, we remain concerned that other state officials with ties to Grace Chapel Church continue obstructing an investigation into Solomon’s death. This includes state Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti, who deploys facially absurd reasoning to avoid an investigation. Specifically, although Skrmetti refers to the scene of Solomon’s death as a “crime scene,” he also states that due to a lack of evidence, we may never know what happened. But that begs the issue—if there is no real investigation, it logically follows that there is a lack of evidence. Thus, we return to our original point: there must be a real investigation.

To make that happen, we need a federal investigation, most likely by the F.B.I. Specifically, we are confident that a federal investigation will reveal multiple behind-the-scenes efforts by persons with ties to Governor Lee, Steve Berger, and Grace Chapel Church to sandbag the case. 

We also need to call a spade a spade. Impeding an investigation into a possible murder is a class E felony under T.C.A. § 39-16-402(a). It may also be chargeable as obstruction of justice, or on the federal level as honest services fraud or via the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. The latter is particularly appropriate when the case “consists of violations of State law, but local law enforcement officials are unlikely or unable to successfully prosecute the case, in which the federal government has a significant interest.”

These factors, together with Aaron Solomon’s alleged use of child pornography, make it clear that the federal government can and should intervene to address the corruption we see in Tennessee.

Gallatin officials, watch out. You’re first on the list.

For more on Tennessee’s history of corruption, see:





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