On May 11, 2017, the District Attorney’s Office announced that they would not be filing charges against Officer Joshua Lippert for the death of Jocques Clemmons. This decision comes nearly one month after the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation completed its investigation of the shooting of Jocques Clemmons by Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD) Officer Joshua Lippert.
While this announcement is disheartening, we know fully the long history of charges being dropped, cases dismissed, or officers not being indicted when it comes to Black people being murdered by the police. For this reason, many in the city are not shocked, but instead angry. Angry that despite someone being shot in the back and killed by an officer who has a record of excessive force- the officer walks free. Angry that a police officer can murder a human being and be comforted by the fact that they will be investigated by their fellow officers in blue. Angry that in the days leading up to the no surprise announcement, MNPD and Megan Barry have beefed up police forces all around the city to quell any form of outrage. Angry that Chief Anderson himself stated “Nashville is not Ferguson” and yet here we are. Jocques’ murder is a function of the continued occupation and over-policing of communities of color in Nashville. To pretend otherwise would be “morally disingenuous.”
Today Nashville, the liberal stronghold of Tennessee, joins the other numerous localities that fail to find fault or even recognize criminality in police officers when their violence and brutality takes the lives of Black people. It is troubling to imagine that an incomplete stop, for Black people, may culminate in death at the hands of MNPD. Community members have been warning city officials for years about the unique risks, vulnerabilities, and dangers that Black people experience at the hands of MNPD as detailed in the Driving While Black report on racial profiling in Metro Nashville. The same police department also sought to dehumanize Jocques Clemmons following the killing by calling him a “gunman,” releasing mugshots, and obtaining a warrant to search Mr. Clemmons’ social media accounts after his death in an effort to slander his character. Age old tactics used by police to villainize Black people.
Worse yet, Officer Lippert is STILL employed by MNPD and free to continue his well documented pattern of excessive use of force on other members of this community. Many of us are not safe while he is still employed, hiding behind a shield and carrying a gun Unfortunately, the death of Jocques Clemmons is only one instance of excessive force, in a city where according to data produced by Metro Legal in response to a civil rights lawsuit, roughly 700 complaints are filed per year against MNPD. The majority of these complaints go without discipline. It is past time for the COMMUNITY to have oversight and for the city to do something about MNPD other than offer the department more money, continue to host townhalls, visit Black barbershops to talk, and deliver lip service. If the city of Nashville, its council members, and police department are serious about making our city safer for ALL citizens they will strongly and visibly support the following demands created by community members who organized to form the Justice For Jocques Coalition together with Clemmons’ family members:
- Release of the police incident report documenting police action in the immediate aftermath of the murder
- Immediate termination of Officer Joshua Lippert
- Make public police policies regarding how/why officers are terminated
- Institute a people-organized Community Oversight Board with independent investigatory power
- Terminate the security contract between MNPD and MDHA
These demands are only what an initial step towards justice for Jocques Clemmons looks like. We recognize that even if all of the demands are met, it is still no victory for communities of color. For communities of color, there is no victory in police violence- there is only justice through accountability and shifting our ideologies and practices on policing to ensure that these killings never happen again. We fully acknowledge that these demands will never bring Jocques Clemmons back home. A mother is left without her child, sisters without a brother, and children without their father. A family left trying to cope, knowing that they are up against a system that historically does not lose. These are the devastating realities that create trauma and distrust in Black communities.
In these times, and considering the history of violence in this country- a history that some of us are reminded of daily- hope seems hard to find. Justice seems unreachable. But we push back and we fight for justice, we fight to keep hope, realizing that these things, that justice and hope are intimately tied to our humanity. The moment that we stop fighting for justice, we lose our humanity. Jocques Clemmons should be alive today. And through the trauma and anger, we will continue to fight for justice.
Rest in Power, Jocques.