Category Archives: law enforcement

New AG opinion: Cities not violating TN traffic camera law

Expanding on an opinion released in July, the Tennessee attorney general says cities that contract with red-light camera companies are not violating state law, reports the News Sentinel.

Attorney General Herbert Slatery, in his opinion Monday, said the state’s statute that requires a certified police officer determine whether laws were broken does not mean that others cannot examine video images. (Note: Full opinion HERE.)

“Vendors engaging in sorting or pre-screening of the video footage are not making a determination that a violation has occurred,” Slatery wrote. “Rather, they are simply ensuring that the law enforcement officers who make those determinations do so efficiently by reviewing only usable information.”

He concluded: “In short, the statute does not prevent a city from contracting with a private vendor to sort or screen the video information for footage that cannot form the basis for a citation.”

Knoxville earlier this month opted to extend its current red-light camera contract with Lasercraft Inc. for 60 days to give city staff time to study Slatery’s first ruling and wait for subsequent opinions. Continue reading

Legislators see racial profiling at Graceland

Two state legislators say it appears racial profiling was involved when police decided who could – and who could not – walk down Elvis Presley Boulevard, a public street, during a “Candle Light Vigil” that drew some protesters.

From the Commercial Appeal:

Several of the protesters who were nominally affiliated with local Black Lives Matter causes attempted to walk toward Graceland on the closed-off but still-public street, but were prevented from doing so by police officers manning the barricades. Three were arrested.

While the permit issued shows that Elvis Presley Enterprises was granted permission to close a portion of the street that runs in front of Graceland, it says nothing about preventing access to the public.

City Chief Legal Officer Bruce McMullen first said that Graceland’s permit didn’t give it the authority to close any public spaces to the public, unlike the permit Memphis in May has to close Tom Lee Park.

Later, though, McMullen clarified his opinion to say that the permit-holder “can ask the police to remove anyone from the permitted area.” He did not specify where that opinion originated.

…At a Tuesday afternoon press conference, state Rep. G.A. Hardaway and state Sen. Lee Harris asked city officials to address what they said sounds like racial profiling.

“If that street is blocked off and a crowd is allowed to enter — an Elvis Presley crowd that may be humming Elvis Presley tunes — then another crowd that is chanting “black lives matter” must also enter. Doesn’t matter what their race is,” Harris said at the press conference. “We can’t have members of the public thinking that chanting ‘black lives matter’ is different or more heavily regulated than singing an Elvis hymn. It is not.”

To illustrate their point, the legislators introduced two women who attended the protest: Elaine Blanchard, who is white, and Pearl Walker, who is black.

“These two ladies, here for the same reason, but they were treated differently because of race,” Hardaway said.

Jackson man charged with murder of TBI agent

News release from TBI
JACKSON – Special Agents from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation have arrested and charged a Jackson man in connection to the shooting death Tuesday afternoon of a TBI Special Agent during the course of an ongoing drug investigation.

Preliminary information indicates Special Agent De’Greaun Frazier was one of several agents working alongside the Metropolitan Narcotics Task Force during a controlled buy Tuesday around 2:00 PM in a vehicle in the area of Brianfield Cove. During the exchange, a subject in the backseat of the car, identified as Brenden Tyler Burns, whom the Agent met for the purposes of purchasing illicit drugs, produced a firearm in an attempt to rob the Agent and an informant sitting in the front seat. During the exchange, Burns fired at least once, striking Agent Frazier, who subsequently died at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital.

Shortly after the shooting, law enforcement officers apprehended Burns (DOB 3-10-93) a short distance away in the area of Tinker Hill Cove. This morning, TBI Agents charged him with one count of Murder in the Perpetration of Attempted Aggravated Robbery. He is currently being held in the Madison County Jail without bond.

TBI agent shot to death in Jackson

JACKSON, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee Bureau of Investigation special agent was shot to death Tuesday during an undercover drug investigation in West Tennessee, the agency said.

Special Agent De’Greaun Frazier, 35, was working with other agents and narcotics officers on a drug investigation when he met a person for a controlled buy in a car in Jackson, TBI spokesman Josh DeVine said in a news release.

The person that Frazier met Tuesday afternoon pulled out a firearm in an apparent robbery attempt and fired at least once, hitting the agent, TBI Director Mark Gwyn said.

Frazier died later at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital.

He was the first agent in TBI history to die in the line of duty.
Continue reading

THP officer fined $25 after third wreck in two years

A Tennessee Highway Patrol officer involved in two previous accidents — and suspended three days for “unbecoming” conduct — has been fined $25 after being found guilty of failing to use due care in a Kingsport crash, reports the Kingsport Times-News.

Ashlee Hill, 31, of Kingsport, has been employed by the THP since February of 2014. According to Megan Buell, director of communications for the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, Hill is currently “working in a non-law enforcement capacity” at the THP’s Fall Branch headquarters.

The Kingsport wreck occurred shortly before 6 p.m. on April 28 in the 2700 block of John B. Dennis Highway. A crash report from the THP states that Hill “attempted to pull from the right lane and make a left turn to cross a paved median.”

While doing so, Hill drove her Ford Crown Victoria “into the pathway” of a northbound 1999 Saturn. Hill’s vehicle was T-boned in the driver’s side, leading to her being transported to a local hospital for overnight observation.

Following a THP investigation, Hill was cited for failure to use due care, failure to yield and driving in the improper lane. In her Tuesday appearance in Kingsport court, Judge Ray Conkin found Hill guilty on the due care charge and issued a $25 fine. The other two offenses were dismissed.

Documents obtained through a records request with the Sullivan County District Attorney’s Office show that in the past two years, Hill has been suspended on two occasions and has received multiple warnings for other incidents.

According to a Tennessee Department of Safety disciplinary history, in August of 2014, Hill was issued an oral warning for a “patrol vehicle accident.” The very next month, a written warning was issued for an “evidence policy violation.”

…Hill’s disciplinary history shows that in August of last year, “unbecoming conduct” led to her being suspended without pay for three days.

When asked to elaborate on Hill’s alleged conduct, Buell said it pertained to “inappropriate communication with a supervisor.” According to a report from WJHL, Hill had sent “sexually suggestive text messages, some of which were pictures of her either partially clothed or nude.”

On Friday, Buell added that Hill’s status and duties with the THP are dependent on the conclusion of a continuing internal investigation.

Purkey named new TN safety commissioner

News release from Department of Safety and Homeland Security
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced the appointment of David Purkey as commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security beginning September 1.

Purkey, 57, has served as the department’s assistant commissioner and homeland security advisor since 2011. Under his leadership, the Office of Homeland Security has transformed into a proactive agency, overseeing school security plans, training citizens and law enforcement agencies in active shooter response, and leading the state’s efforts to combat cybercrime.

From 2014-2016 Purkey served in a dual role as director of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA). Continue reading

Lawsuit: Bradley deputy wrongfully killed man, lied about it

The family of a 23-year-old man shot to death last year by a Bradley County deputy sheriff has filed a $3 million lawsuit saying he was needlessly killed and charging the sheriff’s office covered up what really happened, reports the Times-Free Press.

When the shooting happened on July 28, 2015, the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office said Deputy Tiffany Oakley was assaulted by a stranger and used deadly force to defend herself.

At the time, a sheriff’s office spokesman told the Times Free Press that Oakley was working the night shift and went home for a meal….when someone she didn’t know “stepped out of the shadows and accosted her.”

…However, the lawsuit filed Tuesday in Bradley County Circuit Court states Oakley knew who the man walking through the neighborhood at 2 a.m. was — that she and Allan F. Light III were “very familiar” and “had a friendly relationship” with each other, and that he was on his way either to her home or a neighbor’s.

The suit states that Light “was unarmed and was trying to get away” when Oakley “confronted and attacked” him. The suit claims she fired three shots from her service weapon, hitting him twice, and also shocked him with her Taser.

…Oakley “misrepresented the true facts, denied her previous relationship with, and familiarity with, the decedent and made false and intentionally untrue statements to police officers and investigators and investigating agencies in order to escape responsibility,” the lawsuit states.

Further, the lawsuit claims Sheriff Eric Watson “knowingly joined in and allowed the false statements of the defendant, Oakley, to be unchallenged and proffered statements to the media which were designed to mislead and misrepresent the true facts ”

The suit, filed by attorney Randy Rogers on behalf of Light’s parents, Allen F. Light Jr. and Marlene White, names Watson and Oakley as defendants both professionally and personally, along with Bradley County government. It claims wrongful death and violation of White’s constitutional rights.

…The American Atheists Counsel and a local “Jane Doe” plaintiff sued Watson and the sheriff’s office in May for First Amendment violations over what they said was proselytizing for Christianity on the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page and for censoring comments from those opposed to the religious posts.

The two sides said in a court filing earlier this month they had participated in a successful mediation but gave no details.

Multiple sources told the Times Free Press the settlement involves the county paying an amount in the neighborhood of $40,000 and possibly some kind of monitoring of the sheriff’s office’s social media posts.

Suicide at TN Tower raises security questions

Security issues were raised by a recent suicide at Tennessee Tower, located across the street from the state Capitol, reports WSMV TV.

Police identified the man as Anton Kanevsky, 26, who was visiting Nashville from New York. A state worker saw his body fall past his office window one morning.

Police said Kanevsky left his keys, phone and sandals on the roof before leaping to his death on the plaza 31 stories below.

His family may never know why, but many people want to know how a traveler from out of state got onto the roof of the building.

Kanevsky’s social media profiles show he is from East Meadow, NY, and fluent in Russian. He kept an online travel journal and chronicled his brief few days in Nashville on Facebook. He was looking for work.

Kanevsky stayed at a hostel in downtown Nashville. He had no obvious connections to anyone at the Tennessee Tower.

Security at the tower falls under the state’s General Services division. They contract with private security companies Walden Security and Allied Barton.

Employees must scan their ID to get into Tennessee Tower. Visitors must sign in and show a photo ID. It’s not clear if Kanevsky got to the roof through an elevator inside the building or if he found another way.

The tower is currently having work done on its top floors and roof. There is an outside elevator that’s supposed to be for construction workers, so it’s possible Kanevsky rode that.

Wellspring Builders, the general contractor, referred Channel 4’s questions to the state. The General Services administration would only say it’s under investigation.

Rep. Mitchell: TBI should further investigate Jane Doe#24

News release from House Democratic Caucus
NASHVILLE—Rep. Bo Mitchell (D-Nashville) today announced that he is filing legislation to repeal the so-called “Jeremy’s law”. (Pub. Ch. 848).

The new law was supposedly designed to prevent frivolous lawsuits, but some feel that it provides a chilling effect that discourages sexual abuse claims.

“Under this new law, should you sue the state and a state employee and lose, you could be forced to pay their attorney’s fees”, Rep. Mitchell said. “Not all lawsuits are successful, but that doesn’t mean that they are frivolous.”

Rep. Mitchell said that the report released this week on Representative Jeremy Durham is a perfect example of how this new law could be used.

“If you look at the report, it’s clear that ‘Jane Doe 24’ is retaliated against by an unjust firing and a refusal to re-hire her. (page 30, Report of the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office for the Article II, 12 AD Hoc Select Committee for the Tennessee Hose of Representatives). Before she could take legal action, she would have to face the possibility that if she sued and lost, she could have to pay a lot of out-of-pocket money.”

Rep. Mitchell said he is asking the TBI to investigate her case and see if any laws were broken in her termination… “That’s sad”, Mitchell added. “There needs to be a price paid for inaction of leadership for not doing something for 3 years.

Mark Gwyn given new term as TBI director

News release from the governor’s office
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced the reappointment of Mark Gwyn as director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI).

Gwyn, 53, has led Tennessee’s lead investigative law enforcement agency for 12 years. Under his leadership, the TBI has expanded its resources and embraced technology to enhance the agency’s investigating strengths. Gwyn oversaw the creation of a Technical Services Unit that is responsible for high-tech surveillance methods, computer forensics, and investigating internet crimes against children; helped establish the nationally recognized Tennessee Fusion Center which services as a central hub of information sharing between local, state, and federal law enforcement partners; and spearheaded the state’s efforts to combat human trafficking, including the creation of a special unit to investigate cases and train law enforcement officers across the state. Continue reading