News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
NASHVILLE — State Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) and Representative Charles Sargent (R-Franklin) have filed legislation to give law enforcement and other officials more training to identify, investigate and prosecute cases of human trafficking in Tennessee. The bill calls on the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) to implement courses, which will also include information to help first responders and caseworkers find services to assist victims of the crime.
“We have seen far too many cases of human trafficking in Tennessee,” said Senator Ketron. “Our state has made great gains in combatting human trafficking, but we still have a lot of work to do. Training is essential to help us identify and prosecute this crime, as well as assist the victims.”
The General Assembly passed a series of bills addressing human trafficking after a 2011 Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) report showed 78 of the state’s 95 counties have reported the crime within their borders. A follow-up to the report was released last year which showed that these statistics may be understated because first responders have not been trained to identify the crime. The original report also included a survey from top law enforcement, caseworkers and court officials who deal with human trafficking cases which revealed that 79% felt that their agencies were not adequately trained to recognize and identify the crime.
“Training law enforcement and other first responders in the identification and recognition of human trafficking victims is a high priority,” added Representative Sargent. “Unless victims are identified, they cannot be rescued or restored and those who are responsible will continue their criminal operations. That is why is so important that we have this training in Tennessee to truly address this problem.”
Senate Bill 16 calls for the training courses to be implemented by January 1, 2016 and includes the hiring of four additional TBI special agents. The legislation is co-sponsored by Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) who has sponsored numerous bills strengthening Tennessee’s human trafficking laws.