Shelby County Commissioners take steps toward law enforcement reform

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — Shelby County Commissioners are pushing for better ways to keep excessive force down.

A new ordinance would ask the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office to revoke the training certification for deputies it fires or disciplines for excessive use of force.

Sheriff Floyd Bonner said his office can’t decertify deputies because those requests are handled at the state level.

He said Tennessee is also part of the national decertification index which helps track officers who have been fired or left before termination because of excessive force.

But Bonner said only a few states part of this same registry.

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“Some of the points that commissioners made in there were absolutely spot on but when an officer is fired from the state of Tennessee, there’s nothing in place to stop him from going to Mississippi or to a state that doesn’t check that national registry and I think that’s the point everyone is trying to make right now,” said Sheriff Bonner.

This ordinance narrowly moved on to a second reading and we can expect more discussions in the coming weeks.

Commissioners also want to limit the types of military weapons deputies can use.

Some commissioners said they understand the need for some militarized weapons like helmets or bulletproof vests.

But they don’t want weapons like tanks or helicopters with missiles available for the sheriff’s office.

“This not undermining what the Sheriff’s office is doing in our community but this is speaking to the fact that we don’t want to turn the military on our community or use military-grade weapons on our community,” said Commissioner Van Turner.

Bonner said weapons like tomahawks, aircrafts with missiles are pieces of equipment they can’t even request from the military.

The sheriff said his office recently bought an armed vehicle that can be used to get deputies or civilians out of dangerous situations, but it isn’t a weaponized vehicle.

Bonner said he has no intent to buying any military equipment and he has not renewed his contract with the military so he said this ordinance wouldn’t change that.

An ordinance to limit the use of chemical agents failed.

Bonner said they don’t use military-grade tear gas, they use other agents called OC and CS gas.