Committee carving knives at work on police shootings bill

A bill requiring that the TBI investigate all fatal shootings by law enforcement officers and public disclosure of the investigation results has been watered down substantially as it moved through legislative committees, reports Richard Locker.

Under current law, TBI investigates officer-involved shootings only when requested by district attorneys. And by law, all TBI investigative records — including those of officer-involved shootings — remain permanently confidential, even after the investigations are closed.

But the issue has spurred statewide interest as residents demand more transparency when people are critically injured or killed by law enforcement officers.

…The bill (HB2091) is moving along different paths in the House and Senate — but both have been amended in committees to remove the mandate for TBI probes of all officer-involved shootings statewide. Rep. G.A. Hardaway, D-Memphis, the House sponsor, said Tuesday that that provision may have been too ambitious of a goal to accomplish this year, with the Legislature headed to adjournment by the end of the month, and will have to be delayed until next year.

…The current Senate version of the bill, sponsored by Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, says that after TBI completes its investigation and turns its report over to prosecutors, the district attorney “may disclose the investigative records to the public upon agreement with the chief law enforcement officer of each agency involved in the shooting.”

The current version of the House bill has removed all references to the TBI and public disclosure, leaving only a provision that increases the death benefit paid by the state to the family of a law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty from the current $25,000 to $100,000. (That provision is part of the Senate bill too.) Hardaway said that when the House Criminal Justice Committee considers the bill Wednesday, there likely will be efforts to reinsert a provision requiring public release of the results when the TBI does investigate an officer-involved shooting, with redaction of sensitive information to protect sources and other investigations.

That could be immediately after TBI turns over its report to the district attorney, or 30 days later, he said.