Tennessee

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Click a "Get Template" button to get an email template about a specific issue. Edit the template to connect on a more personal level with your lawmaker. See the Contacting Logistics page for information about how to write an effective email to your lawmakers. Get your lawmakers' emails with the search box to the right. Send the email!

Be sure to check out the Next Steps at the bottom of the page. Go to the References/Further Reading page to see our sources and do some research of your own.

Last updated March 5, 2020

Summary

Key:

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Legislation Achieved

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Some Progress

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No Progress

Demilitarization

Learn about demilitarization and the specific issues below on the Demilitarization page (opens in a new window).

 

No knock warrants

No Progress:

Tennessee has not yet enacted a law eliminating the use of no-knock warrants. Legislators attempted to ban this practice in 2017 through SB 1272, but the bill died in committee. At a local level, the Memphis Police Department announced in June 2020 that they would no longer use no-knock warrants.

Pending Legislation: SB 1485, introduced in January 20201, prohibits courts from issuing or law enforcement officers from serving a no-knock warrant.

1033 purchases

No Progress:

Tennessee has not yet enacted a law ending its participation in programs that facilitate the transfer of military weapons from the federal government to police departments. Tennessee is among the top five states that have received the most mine-resistant vehicles in the years since Ferguson, with more than two dozen sent to departments in those five states. As of June 2020, Tennessee had by far the highest spending per capita, with police departments in the state acquiring $20 worth of equipment per person.

Military style training

No Progress:

Tennessee has not yet enacted a law refocusing training away from self-defense responses and towards community centered training like that offered by Blue Courage.

SWAT data

No Progress:

Tennessee has not yet enacted a law requiring the recording and cataloging of SWAT team use.

For Profit Policing

Learn about for profit policing and the specific issues below on the For Profit Policing page (opens in a new window).

 

Civil asset forfeiture

No Progress:

Tennessee has not yet enacted a law ending civil asset forfeiture. In fact, those appealing civil asset forfeiture claims must pay a $350 bond to begin the claiming process. HB 0340 would have eliminated the $350 bond, required the police officer to report the forfeiture to the District AG (who would have determined if probable cause existed), ended the ability of local departments to participate in asset forfeiture's through federal loophole, and almost entirely eliminate the ability of local departments to keep the profits of any forfeiture. It died in committee in the Spring of 2020.

Quotas

Achieved:

Senate Bill 2548, signed into law in July 2020, imposes "a Class B misdemeanor on any public official or employee who requires or suggests a ticket quota for police officers. A person found guilty of the offense would be subject to a fine of up to $500."

Cost of misconduct

No Progress:

Tennessee has not yet enacted a law requiring police departments (not state general funds) to cover the cost of misconduct. Cities pay the cost of misconduct out of general funds. Most recently, Nashville settled for $130,000 for a case of police misconduct that was allegedly racially biased.

Broken Windows Policing

Learn about broken windows policing and the specific issues below on the Broken Windows Policing page (opens in a new window).

 

Minor offenses

Some Progress:

Tennessee removed the felony designation for an offender's third or subsequent conviction for marijuana possession. It has not decriminalized 'quality of life' misdemeanors. HB1610, which was debated in 2020, would have decriminalized marijuana possession statewide, and allowed voters to decide if they want to legalize it in their county. The bill died in committee.

Objective justification for stops

No Progress:

Tennessee has not yet enacted a law requiring officers to establish objective justification for making a stop (i.e. not simply for furtive movement, suspicious activity, or matching a generalized description).

Reporting stop details

No Progress:

Tennessee has not yet enacted a law requiring comprehensive reporting of police stops (noting location, race, gender, whether force was used and whether a firearm was found). Though some police departments discussed their reporting requirements in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, TN lacks statewide standards.

Accountability

Learn about accountability and the specific issues below on the Accountability page (opens in a new window).

 

Reckless civil rights violation

No Progress:

Tennessee has not yet enacted a law lowering the prosecution requirement from ‘willful’ to ‘reckless’ deprivation of another’s rights.

Independent investigation

Some Progress:

The TN Bureau of Investigation is an independent fact-finding agency that investigates officer-involved shootings, and any use-of-force instances at the request of the local District Attorney General. However, there is no law in Tennessee requiring TBI involvement in use-of-force cases. Each case TBI becomes involved in originates with the formal request of the local District Attorney General for the judicial district in which the incident occurs.

Qualified immunity

No Progress:

Tennessee has not yet enacted a law ending qualified immunity.

Reinvesting in Communities

Learn about reinvesting in communities and the specific issues below on the Reinvesting in Communities page (opens in a new window).

 

Mental health response

Some Progress:

The TN Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services has integrated the use of Crisis Intervention Teams in police departments in 18 of the state's 95 counties. The CIT model was actually developed in Memphis. HB 0643 created a grant program to cover the police transportation of mentally ill individuals to hospitals/institutions rather than jails. CIT programs train police officers to address mental health crisis situations and establish alternatives to jail for those experiencing a crisis, but cops are still the ones answering the calls.

Education, Housing, Community Health Resources

No Progress:

It is important to note that policing does not address the roots of social disadvantage and barriers to (economic) opportunity that often lead to crime. Nor should police be burdened with that responsibility.
Without access to quality resources in healthcare, education, and housing, our cities, neighborhoods, and families will continue to suffer. We should instead reassess the budgets of the state government and reinvest in the services that matter most.

Next Steps

No matter what, register to vote:

Contacting officials is just one piece of the puzzle we can't stop there. We need to make sure our elected officials reflect our values and support reform at every level of government. Register here:

To keep these policies at the forefront:

Keep emailing about them (if you just finished the 5 Days Challenge, keep up the schedule—set reminders in your phone to email about each issue on its specific day).

To ask for more than this:

Use our templates as a model to ask for bigger changes. Color for Change and The Movement for Black Lives both have specific policy related to a reimagined law enforcement system. If you think there are additional policies we ought to consider, send your thoughts our way.

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