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How should Nashville police have responded to judge’s request?

When the below-cited incident occurred last year, those involved likely never considered that it would blow up to writ-large proportions, result in the resignation of a Nashville General Sessions judge and bring about a fair amount of criticism for the city’s police chief.

Nonetheless, all that did come to pass, with the repercussions still being felt and the matter continuing to play out in the media.

What happened last June was this: Judge Casey Moreland phoned a Metro police sergeant, asking him to intervene in a traffic stop and release a woman who was being questioned and having the potential to be arrested. The judge and that woman were having a relationship at the time. Officers at the scene acceded to the judge’s request, letting the woman go.

Here are two questions that are being asked repeatedly in the wake of that incident. First, was there any impropriety in the judge’s action? And, second, should Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson be targeted for criticism regarding his comment that he would not discipline the involved officers or subscribe to the view that they acted inappropriately by not exercising independent discretion in the matter?

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, Vice Mayor David Briley and other commentators have weighed in on the matter, uniformly expressing concern that community faith in the integrity of the criminal justice system — chiefly concerning the impartiality of judges and the free discretion of police officers — was compromised.

Noted Briley: “[P]eople who don’t have connections need to know they’re getting treated just like the people with connections.”

As for Moreland, he resigned from his position last month, and is a current target of a federal probe investigating witness tampering and obstruction of justice.

Anderson, who has criticized Moreland in the past, still says that his officers should trust and obey the city’s judges when they issue requests and directives. He cites an official directive to the effect that they should routinely do so unless they clearly believe that what they are being asked to do is unlawful.