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Governor announces statewide police reforms including chokehold restrictions

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Gov. Bill Lee

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee shared on Thursday he is partnering with state organizations for a number of police reforms, calling for updated use-of-force and duty-to-intervene policies from local law enforcement agencies, increased police training and greater sharing of information pertaining to law enforcement.

“The timing and the intent of this partnership reflects the desire to ensure that law enforcement are consistently on the side of the communities that they serve,” Lee said. “Tragic, preventable events across this country have caused all of us to confront the difference between law enforcement and police brutality and challenged us as well to examine troubling, inconsistent citizen experiences with law enforcement.”

Lee is partnering with the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, the Tennessee Highway Patrol, The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, Tennessee Sheriffs’ Association and the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commission in these reformation efforts.

He called on local law enforcement agencies to update their use-of-force and duty-to-intervene policies within the next 60 days to “ensure chokeholds are not used as a restraining technique” and to “require officers to act to prevent or stop any act, even by officers, that violates law or policy.”

The governor shared the POST Commission will make the National Decertification Index, which tracks officers who have lost licenses or certificates due to misconduct, more accessible to agencies in Tennessee.

Additionally, the Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy will increase the required hours of training and study for law enforcement officials from 400 to 488 hours. Curriculum and hands-on training exercises will also be updated to include “relevant community-oriented policing concepts.”

The POST Commission will also require at least 16 hours of training spent on learning de-escalation techniques, officers’ duty to intervene, public assembly (or protest or demonstration) interaction, and emphasizing positive community interaction. Officers will also be required to complete eight additional hours of training on these topics annually.

Colonel Dereck Stewart said the Tennessee Highway Patrol is also updating its policies as they pertain to chokeholds, saying they were silent on that particular issue before. He said the revision of the policies will “prohibit the use of chokeholds unless deadly force is authorized.”

“It is important to note that the actions of the individuals that led to the murder of George Floyd are not consistent with any professional law enforcement agency anywhere,” Stewart said. “The increased scrutiny of law enforcement today are understandable, and the expectations of those that wear the badge are high.”

Lee shared his appreciation for law enforcement officers and their work and shared his commitment to accountability, sharing that this conversation is only beginning. While he did not share specifics on how the new requirements, such as the duty-to-intervene policies, should be enforced, he explained that those details will be “part of the collaboration of this partnership going forward.”

“What we want to do here is build trust,” Lee said. “When citizens trust law enforcement in a greater way than they do now, then we’ll have better interactions.”

Watch Lee’s full announcement of these reforms on his official Facebook page at facebook.com/GovBillLee/videos.

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