MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Governor Lee announced sweeping changes to law enforcement across Tennessee Thursday afternoon.
“Tragic, preventable events across this country have caused all of us to confront the difference between law enforcement and police brutality,” Lee said.
All agencies are now ordered to eliminate the use of choke holds if they haven’t already and require officers to intervene if they see another officer violating the law or department policy.
Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings had already made those changes and is pledging his support.
“There is nothing more important in law enforcement than integrity and trust,” Rallings said.
The state is also adding 88 hours of training to academies. A minimum of 16 hours must be focused on teaching officers how to de-escalate heated situations and interact with protesters as peacefully as possible.
“If you can deal with situations and you don’t have to get involved in a physical confrontation or possible life-threatening confrontation then that’s good for everybody,” Memphis Police Association President Mike Williams said.
Memphis activists were outraged back in May when an officer was seen on video shoving a woman to the ground. Protesters say she was taking pictures of demonstrators on Union Avenue.
Josh Spickler is a criminal justice system reform advocate in Memphis. He says more training is only one step in the fight against policy brutality.
“We have a police force that is militarized, that has no accountability, that is not transparent,” he said.
Spickler is pushing for more oversight from the mayor and city council. He also says the Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board should have more power to investigate allegations of brutality.
“This is ultimately a local issue. What will we tolerate and allow from a police department that we fund?” Spickler said.
Rallings also wants to implement more thorough background checks for recruits to ensure the right people are hired as officers.