Tough talk as Shelby County Commissioners square off over excessive use of force

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — There was tough talk as Shelby County Commissioners squared off over the excessive use of force during Wednesday’s meeting.

The issue was a proposed ordinance to stop public safety officers from using excessive force in the use of chemical weapons like tear gas.

Commissioner Tami Sawyer said she and her colleagues received numerous complaints from constituents about law enforcement’s use of tear gas during recent protests.

That’s why she said she wants to keep a database tracking those officers who have been terminated for using excessive force so they don’t go to another department in another city.

Tensions were high at Shelby County Commission during a discussion about public safety concerns.

“You continue to be rude and disrespectful, I’m going to take that up with your supervisor. Interrupt me again,” Sawyer stated.

“Commissioner Sawyer please, no please,” said Commissioner Amber Mills.

“Amber, shut up and run your committee,” said Sawyer.

Sawyer told employees with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office about an ordinance she’s sponsoring that disqualifies applicants from public safety positions if prior work history includes termination for excessive use of force.

“Our hiring processes already have an extensive background check that’s done in the hiring phase," said Shelby County Sheriff’s Office Assistant Chief Deputy Jason Pagenkopf. "That’s done by certified investigators.”

“If you’re saying you do all these things, I’m still not understanding what your issue with the ordinance is, but it’s ok because I’m not going to discuss this with you anymore,” said Sawyer.

The ordinance also calls to form a tracking system of public safety officers terminated or disciplined for use of excessive force.

“Any kind of terminations that we find, previous law enforcement or corrections, we don’t hire any terminations,” said Pagenkopf.

“Second of all, what the intent behind this and every other resolution is to ensure that we have a standard of policing. It’s a conversation that is happening across the country,” Sawyer stated.

Shelby County Commissioners will revisit the conversation Monday.