Wednesday, November 21, 2018

TBI: Investigating All Officer Shootings Here Could Stretch Resources

Posted By on Wed, Nov 21, 2018 at 8:50 AM

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Representatives from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations (TBI) told a Memphis City 

Council committee Tuesday that the agency is concerned about the amount of personnel it would require to investigate all officer-involved shootings in Shelby County.

Jimmy Musice, attorney and policy adviser for TBI said the bureau has limited resources and that other small Tennessee counties could lose some of those resources if TBI investigated all officer-involved shootings here.

“It’s difficult to be tasked with something we may not have the appropriate resources to do,” Musice said.

Musice said historically TBI has investigated the majority of officer-involved shooting cases in rural counties, as they typically don’t have the resources to investigate independently.

It wasn’t until after the 2014 shooting of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri that the state’s four large counties — Shelby, Knox, Davidson, and Hamilton — began asking TBI to step in, Musice said.

Of the 70 officer-involved shootings that TBI said took place between 2013 and 2018 in Shelby County, the bureau has only been asked to investigated 15 incidents.

Councilman Martavious Jones asked how much of TBI’s resources would be strained if the policy only applied to Davidson and Shelby Counties and added that because Tennessee’s four big counties are the largest contributors to the state’s budget, some of that money should go back to Shelby County for these investigations.

“The only contention I make is why not give us a return on our investment,” Jones said. “We send all of this money to Nashville for it to be dispersed throughout the 94 counties. I don’t think it’s too much to ask.”

However, Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich, Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner Jr., and Memphis Police Department Director Michael Rallings all agreed that the policy that is in place now is working. The policy, or memo of understanding (MOU), now only requires that TBI be asked to step in to investigate officer-involved shootings that result in death.

“We’re trying to be as transparent as possible,” Bonner said. “We want people to know that all law enforcement officers in this area are doing the right thing. Nobody’s trying to hide anything.”

Rallings added that no one ever talks about the law, which he said is very simple: “An officer can use deadly force to protect themselves when threatened with deadly force or a third party is.”

“If that’s applicable to the situation, then that shooting is probably going to be ruled justified,” Rallings said. “It’s not pretty. It’s never pretty when an officer uses deadly force, but it’s necessary.”

Still, Rallings said officer-involved shootings have not been an issue in Memphis, despite the high number of violent crimes.

Without the support of the aforementioned officials, Councilman Worth Morgan said it would be bad policy to support the move.

“I don’t see any way we can support this without having our experts who are sitting right in front of us in agreement with it,” Morgan said. “I don’t think that’s good policy or government. They have my full confidence unless somebody can show me real evidence that proves otherwise.”

Rep. G.A. Hardaway disagreed with the officials and Morgan, saying that the MOU is just the starting point. The MOU is open to interpretation and not does include any repercussions for not adhering to it, he said.

“It’s not about what the state is willing to spend for public safety, but about what the people of Shelby County and Memphis deserve," Hardaway said.

TBI has access to funds that local agencies don’t, Hardaway added. “The bottom line is that the state has the resources.”

“That’s what your legislators from this area are charged with,” Hardaway said. “We go to Nashville and put in place public policy to get the appropriations to serve our community.”

Hardaway also said that it’s not that TBI can’t conduct the investigations because “they’re already doing it for somebody else who isn’t paying their full part.”

“What will it [the legislation] do again?” Hardaway said. “It will deliver truth and justice by collecting the facts in a timely fashion with objectivity.”

The council didn’t vote on a resolution Tuesday, but Councilman Edmund Ford Jr., whose resignation from the council and transition to the Shelby County Commission becomes effective on November 25th, said he “would like to see this body act.”

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