Emailed statement from Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown:
The recent shooting death of Darrius Stewart by a Memphis police officer has brought the national debate about the reliability of investigating officer-involved deaths close to home.
I am joining Rep. G.A. Hardaway (D-Memphis) to propose legislation on the issue. Our bill will require the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to conduct investigations every time a person is critically injured or killed in a situation involving a law enforcement officer.
This legislation will promote public confidence in the quality and integrity of these types of investigations. It will also prevent conflicts of interest, in which police departments must investigate their own officers.
A recent Harvard University study found that 66% of black Americans aged 18-29 have “not much” or “no” confidence in the legal system’s fairness, and a 2014 Gallup study found that only 37% of blacks have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the police. While a lack of confidence in law enforcement is no excuse to resist arrest or assault a police officer, it is important to acknowledge that public perceptions matter.
The bill will allow disclosure of the results of TBI investigations, adding further transparency to the process. Under current law, if a prosecutor decides not to prosecute a case, the entire investigation must remain confidential. That lack of information does not engender confidence in the decision.
As always, I am eager to hear from you about this or any legislation before the General Assembly. It is a privilege to serve as senator of the 31st district.
Note: Previous post HERE.