NASHVILLE - The state Senate Thursday voted unanimously to make public Tennessee Bureau of Investigation probes on officer-involved shooting deaths.
"I would submit that there is no greater government action than the taking of a life and no more legitimate public interest in government-produced information," said Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris, D-Memphis, the bill's sponsor. "We shouldn't keep these records confidential from the public after the investigation and prosecution are concluded."
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, spoke in favor of the legislation, telling colleagues, "we need to make this information public to exonerate law enforcement officers who are at times wrongfully accused of wrongdoing, and we need to make this information public when there is wrongdoing so the public will have confidence in our law enforcement."
Under current state law, TBI investigation records are exempt from public disclosure in an exclusion to the state's Open Records Act unless directed to by a court.
The House companion bill, sponsored by Rep. G.A. Hardaway, D-Memphis, is scheduled to be heard next week in the lower chamber.
There have been at least nine officer-involved shootings in Tennessee so far this year, including three in Hamilton County.
Christopher Sexton was killed in January after leading officers on a lengthy pursuit that ended on Sequoyah Access Road in Soddy-Daisy. Matthew Paupp was shot and wounded in February after a disturbance at his father's home on Fuller Road in Chattanooga. Daniel Hendrix was killed in March after a domestic incident on Shawnee Trail in Chattanooga.
At least 16 officer-involved shootings happened in Tennessee in 2016.