KNOXVILLE (WATE) – According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, shootings involving police officers which TBI has responded to are on the rise. The agency has seen a 43 percent increase in the last five years.
“Between 2011 and 2015, we responded to about 49 of these kinds of incidents each year. That number increased to 70 last year,” said Leslie Earhart with TBI. “We anticipate that we will work as many or more in 2017.
Earhart says the agency expects up to 85 officer-involved shootings this year and has responded to 18 shootings since January, including one in Rockwood and one in Cocke County.
“We can’t speculate on way we’ve seen an uptick but if you look at the numbers we definitely have,” said Earhart.
These numbers do not include Knoxville and Knox County where the numbers are lower. The Knoxville Police Department says there have been no officer-involved shootings within the city since 2015.
Knox County Sheriff’s Office declined to provide numbers. According to WATE 6 On Your Side news archives, KCSO has had three officer-involved shootings since 2015. Two shootings happened this year and both were fatal. The first shooting was in Turkey Creek in February and the other Tuesday in South Knox County.
KPD and KCSO perform their own investigations, but TBI investigates other areas of the state where assistance is requested.
“Our field agents will work to interview witnesses, take statements, and our forensic scientists will work on collecting any physical evidence at the scene that would be relevant to the investigation,” said Earhart.
She says TBI only acts as an investigative tool.
“Our responsibility is to determine if laws were violated that resulted in injury or death to a law enforcement officer, the detainee, the arrestee or anyone else involved.”
TBI then presents its findings to the district attorney who makes the decision in the case.