Nashville Mayor John Cooper confirmed this morning Police Chief Steve Anderson will retire.The Tennessee Lookout broke the story just minutes before Cooper made the announcement, based on information from multiple source. Anderson will remain on the job through a national search to find his full time replacement with which he will assist.
Anderson rose through the ranks through the Nashville police department, earning his way to the No. 2 job before former Chief Ronal Serpas resigned in 2010. Anderson was named the interim chief, but indicated he didn’t want the full-time gig initially before ultimately being talked into applying by then-Mayor Karl Dean.
The job of police chief often becomes a short-time gig, but Anderson held the job for a decade overseeing one of the city’s largest and most politically scrutinized agencies. Under Serpas, Anderson was the department’s enforcer and his hard-nosed approach put him on the other side of the police officers union, the Fraternal Order of Police.
Anderson took the top job amid Nashville’s recovery from the flood and during an economic recession. He received national accolades for peacefully handling a protest about police brutality, even offering hot chocolate and coffee to protesters in 2014.
But, his department had two high profile officer-involved shootings, including the shooting death of Daniel Hambrick in 2018, resulting in criminal charges against the officer Andrew Delke. In 2016, a report by Gideon’s Army found evidence of racial bias in traffic stops by Nashville police.
Anderson also was at odds in recent months with the Community Oversight Board, which was created by public referendum, to investigate incidents when officers use force and offer policy recommendations.
As with other major cities, Nashville has been the focus of an array of policing reforms in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
I am announcing the retirement of MNPD Chief Steve Anderson. We will have a national search to find his successor. I am grateful to the Chief for his service throughout his 45-year career, and for providing continuity and a smooth transition during a national search.
— Mayor John Cooper (@JohnCooper4Nash) June 18, 2020
As recently as last year, an internal survey of members by the union found Anderson with poor favorability ratings among officers. But, Anderson maintained his leadership of the department and political clout, surviving under four mayors who consistently supported him.
His leadership faced his harshest challenge in recent weeks as calls for his resignation from important advocacy groups and at least 15 members of the Metro Council pressured Mayor John Cooper to make a change.
It’s unclear if Cooper demanded Anderson’s resignation. Multiple sources told the Tennessee Lookout that Cooper prefers to hire a Black police chief. Deputy Chief John Drake, who is black, is viewed by many as the internal candidate with the best shot of earning the full-time job. Drake was promoted to head of the department’s community services bureau earlier this month after Deputy Chief Brian Johnson abruptly retired.
(Tennessee Lookout Editor Holly McCall contributed to this story.)