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Knoxville City Council approves substitute motion instead of zero-tolerance policy for racism and sexism

City Councilwoman Amelia Parker originally introduced a resolution that would give departments 90 days to study what a zero-tolerance policy would look like.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — UPDATE (8:45 p.m.): The Knoxville City Council met Tuesday to discuss whether they would take the first steps in implementing a zero-tolerance policy for racist and sexist behavior in city government.

Originally, City Councilwoman Amelia Parker introduced a resolution that would give city departments 90 days to study specifics about what a zero-tolerance policy would cover, its possible effects and other aspects of the policy. The council decided not to approve the resolution.

Instead, they unanimously approved a substitute resolution that gives Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon's office 120 days to work with human resources departments and the Civil Service Board to come up with recommendations to address racist and sexist behavior.

Lynne Fugate, another city council member, introduced the substitute resolution. She said she wanted to take zero-tolerance out of the resolution because she said it is hard to describe and difficult to enforce. She also said she wanted to make sure any policy changes are fully vetted.

Gwen McKenzie, the Knoxville Vice Mayor, said that there are no zero-tolerance policies in place in the city. To add zero-tolerance policies, she said they would need to change the city's civil service charter.

Parker said that zero-tolerance policies are not meant to threaten civil service protections, and called the substitute motion a disingenuous move.

Kincannon said that she supported changing policies to address racist and sexist practices, but said she did not support zero-tolerance policies. She said she will give the council a report on how policies are being implemented now.

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The Knoxville City Council will vote Tuesday on whether it should take the first steps toward developing a zero-tolerance policy for racist and sexist practices within the city government.

City Councilwoman Amelia Parker introduced a resolution that would give city departments 90 days to study specifics about what a zero-tolerance policy would cover, its possible effects and other aspects of the policy.

The study will be used to inform the development of a zero-tolerance policy for the city government, according to the resolution. Parker said the policy would outline clear and mandatory disciplinary actions whenever the policy is violated.

She also said the policy would not allow supervisors to decide on disciplinary actions.

"We have had multiple alarming reports from city employees, specifically KPD officers, of an unabated culture of racism and sexism within the department," Parker said. "If officers from minority groups are being treated unfairly internally, then it is difficult for Knoxville residents to have confidence that officers will treat them fairly. The city of Knoxville should hold police officers and all city employees to the highest standards of integrity and ethics."

Parker said she created her resolution based on similar resolutions that passed in Milwaukee and Oakland. She also said she used examples from several universities to create the proposal and consulted with a city attorney about it.

She said several departments across the city government would help create the final zero-tolerance policy.