Gov. Bill Lee calls for ban on chokeholds across all police agencies in Tennessee

Lee said he is calling on law enforcement agencies across the state to review and update use of force and duty to intervene policies in the next 60 days. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Lee said he is calling on law enforcement agencies across the state to review and update use of force and duty to intervene policies in the next 60 days. (Courtesy Fotolia)

Lee said he is calling on law enforcement agencies across the state to review and update use of force and duty to intervene policies in the next 60 days. (Courtesy Fotolia)

In a July 2 press briefing, Gov. Bill Lee called for police departments and agencies across the state to review polices related to law enforcement policies that have garnered nationwide attention in recent weeks.

Lee said he is calling on law enforcement agencies across the state to review and update use of force and duty to intervene policies in the next 60 days. Lee said policies should be changed to ensure that chokeholds are not used as a restraining technique and officers will be required to intervene if they see other officers violating policies and laws.

“The timing and the intent of this partnership reflects a desire to ensure that law enforcement are consistently on the side of the communities they serve,” Lee said. “Tragic, preventable deaths across this country have caused all of us to confront the difference between law enforcement and police brutality and challenged us as well to examine troubling, inconsistent citizen experiences with law enforcement. There is a vast difference between meaningful reform and meaningless attempts to defund the police or other unrealistic approach that misses the mark of both advancing justice and strengthen interactions with the communities that they serve.”

Tennessee Highway Patrol Colonel Dereck Stewart said the THP is also working to update its polices, as are other state agencies.

“Our [curriculum] banned the use of chokeholds many years ago, but our policy review revealed that our policy was silent on this particular subject,” Stewart said. “I have ordered the immediate rewrite and revision of the general order to address this oversight which will clearly prohibit the use of chokeholds unless deadly force is authorized. It is important to note that the actions of individuals that led to the murder of George Floyd are not consistent with any professional law enforcement agency anywhere. The increased scrutiny of law enforcement today is understandable and the expectations of those that wear the badge are high.”


Large cities across the country, including Metro Nashville, have taken steps in recent weeks to enact policies outlined in the #8cantwait campaign, which calls for nationwide police reform that includes banning chokeholds and strangleholds; requiring de-escalation; requiring warnings before shooting, requiring exhausting all alternatives before shooting, requiring duty to intervene policies; banning shooting at moving vehicles; requiring use of force continuum; and requiring comprehensive reporting.

“Peer-to-peer accountability is oversight in real-time and I’m proud of [law enforcement] leaders for setting the expectation that chain of command is not an excuse to turn a blind eye to dangerous behavior,” Lee said.

Lee said the state will also ensure access to agencies across the state to the National Decertification Index, a registry that tracks officers that have lost their licenses due to misconduct to ensure they cannot be hired by another department.

The state will also add 88 additional training hours as a minimum requirement for officers. Training will include no fewer than 16 hours dedicated to de-escalating techniques, Lee said.
By Wendy Sturges
A Houston native and graduate of St. Edward's University in Austin, Wendy Sturges has worked as a community journalist covering local government, health care, business and development since 2011. She has worked with Community Impact since 2015 as a reporter and editor and moved to Tennessee in 2019.


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