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Press Releases

Beavers Announces Bill to Restrict Electronic Surveillance by Police

Press release from the Senate Republican Caucus; December 16, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) announced today she will introduce legislation to prohibit state and local police agencies from accessing or retrieving the location data of residents by surveillance of an electronic device without a court warrant. Beavers said the bill will help ensure government does not take advantage of technological advances in cell phones, laptops and other electronic devices to spy without appropriate judicial oversight.

“Government and law enforcement agencies should not be able to tap into your cell phone location or gain access to electronically stored data without a warrant approved by a judge,” said Senator Beavers. “We cannot let technological advances sidestep the Fourth Amendment. This protection is a very important part of the checks and balances put into place by our forefathers to keep government from overstepping its boundaries.”

Law enforcement made 1.1 million requests to wireless carriers for cellphone data information in 2012 according to a report delivered to Congress earlier this month. The three largest wireless companies, AT&T, Sprint and Verizon reported they have received 56,400 “emergency” requests from police departments which did not have a warrant or court order. One company reported their requests from police have doubled in the past five years.

In addition, public records obtained by USA Today and Gannett reveal that about one in four law enforcement agencies in the U.S. have used “tower dumps.” This is a surveillance tactic which covers multiple towers and wireless providers to give police a multitude of electronic data about a targeted cell phone user. The digital dragnets also capture information on other persons using wireless devices in the area who are not suspected of wrongdoing.

Beavers said her electronic privacy bill will be modeled after one passed in Montana which allows exceptions only in order to respond to a possible life-threatening situation, an emergency call by the user or when a device is reported as stolen, unless there is informed consent by the owner.

“Citizens must be protected from unreasonable government surveillance,” added Beavers. “This legislation is a big step forward in securing our Constitutional freedoms.”

Senator Beavers represents Cannon, Clay, DeKalb, Macon, Smith and Wilson Counties in District 17 in the Tennessee Senate.

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Press Releases

TBI Releases First Study on TN Law Enforcement Use of Deadly Force

Press release from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation; October 7, 2013:

NASHVILLE- The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation today released its first-ever study on law enforcement’s use of deadly force and shooting incidents in Tennessee while in the line of duty. Different from the annual Law Enforcement Officers Killed or Assaulted (LEOKA) report, this report takes an in-depth look at officers who have used force or deadly force with a weapon while protecting Tennesseans and the effect that critical incident had on the officers, their departments and their communities.

The mixed methods research study took a three pronged approach to the issues. First, law enforcement agencies across the state were surveyed about the number of times officers within their departments used deadly force between 2007 and 2011. Second, round table discussions were held where law enforcement leaders provided input on trends, causes, policy and costs of the use of firearms by officers in their respective regions of the state. Lastly, researchers interviewed a dozen officers who had been involved in a shooting incident to gain the perspective of those officers and publish eight of those summarized interviews as case studies.

Law Enforcement Use of Deadly Force 2007-2011 Quick Facts

  • Of the 295 agencies that responded to the survey, 206 were police departments, 75 were sheriff’s departments and the remaining 14 were state departments.
  • Eighty-four agencies experienced at least one officer involved shooting between 2007 and 2011 with a total of 234 officer involved shootings.
  • The majority of the shooting incidents at 140 or approximately 60 percent were large departments with more than 101 sworn personnel. Both small and medium sized agencies each reported about 20 percent of the shooting incidents.
  • Two hundred and seven agencies reported having no officer involved shootings during the time period.
  • Thirty-five of the officers involved in shooting incidents are no longer employed in law enforcement.
  • Seventy-two percent of all agencies received deadly force training at least annually.
  • Of the 234 incidents reported lawsuits were filed in 20 cases and were evenly distributed between small, medium and large agencies.
  • One hundred and sixty-four agencies reported having mandatory post shooting counseling provided to officers.

The study reveals several factors contributing to the use of deadly force incidents including mentally ill subjects, drugs, gangs and the disposal of seized weapons. Another common theme is the importance of firearms training including judgmental training to the law enforcement community as a whole. To read the study in its entirety click here.

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Press Releases

TN Joins Multi-State, Multi-National Initiative Against Travel, Timeshare Deception

Press release from Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper; June 6, 2013:

Tennessee is cautioning consumers about deceptive travel promoters and timeshare resellers as part of a joint multi-state, multi-national law enforcement initiative, coordinated by the Federal Trade Commission, Attorney General Bob Cooper announced today.

Attorney General Cooper and Gary Cordell, director of the Division of Consumer Affairs (a division of the Department of Commerce and Insurance), are urging consumers to beware in light of complaints of deceptive conduct by some timeshare and vacation club companies. Among the allegations are that some are using misleading sales tactics to induce consumers into purchasing timeshare or vacation club programs that have high maintenance fees, poor travel date and destination selection, and hidden costs. Other abuses consumers complain about include cancellation issues, difficulty contacting customer service, and misleading or deceptive high pressure sales presentations.

Complaints have cropped up of another deceptive practice involving promoters tricking consumers into purchasing deeply discounted or “free” vacation packages supposedly worth thousands of dollars. More often than not, consumers receive nothing of value or are required to attend lengthy, high-pressure timeshare sales presentations.

“At this time of the year when timeshare owners realize they may not be able to take a vacation at their designated ownership time, it’s especially important to do your homework when dealing with someone who claims to be able to quickly sell or rent your vacation spot,” Attorney General Cooper said. “In that same vein, last minute vacation planners should beware of those companies hawking so-called ‘free” or deeply discounted vacations, which are likely anything but what they expect.”

Many consumers who are unhappy with their timeshares and are unable to cancel may try and sell their timeshares. Tennessee consumers have complained of timeshare and vacation club resellers who claim they can get top dollar prices to buy or rent timeshare property or vacation club points. Most consumer complaints stem from those companies asking for upfront fees after falsely claiming they have renters or buyers at the ready.

“Unfortunately, many consumers ultimately end up losing hundreds or thousands of dollars in bogus closing costs and unsold properties or points packages,” DCA Director Cordell added. “Many of these scammers also promise refunds to consumers, but most consumers never get their money back.”

Today’s announcement coincides with the announcement of 83 civil actions by the FTC and more than 27 states; more than 74 state, local and federal criminal actions; and 24 international actions brought by eight countries. To protect against these types of frauds, AG Cooper and Director Cordell offered some tips to avoid becoming a victim.

Some Signs It’s a Travel Scam:

  • You “won a free vacation,” but you have to pay some fees first.
  • The prize company wants your credit card number.
  • They cold-call, cold-text, or email you out of the blue. Before you do business with any company you don’t know, call the local consumer protection agencies in the company’s home state to check on complaints; then, search online for consumer complaints.
  • They don’t — or can’t —give you specifics.
  • You get pressure to sign up for a travel club for great deals on future vacations.
  • You get a robocall about it. Robocalls from companies are illegal if you haven’t given a company written permission to call you; even if you haven’t signed up for the national Do Not Call Registry.

Tips to Avoid a Timeshare Resale Scam:

  • Check out the company before you agree to anything. See if the Attorney General and local consumer protection agencies in the company’s home state have complaints, then search online for complaints.
  • Deal only with licensed real estate brokers or agents.
  • Get all terms in writing before you agree to anything.
  • Consider doing business only with someone who gets paid after the timeshare is sold.
  • Be alert to a repeat scam.
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Press Releases

TN Rolls Out ‘More Cops, More Stops’ Campaign

Press release from the Tennessee Dept. of Transportation; April 8, 2013:

Nashville, Tenn. – In an effort to save lives on Tennessee’s roadways, local law enforcement agencies across the state will be out in force beginning April 12 through April 15, and from April 19 through April 22, as part of the “More Cops. More Stops.” campaign to crack down on drivers who are speeding, driving while under the influence or distracted, or not wearing seat belts.

Breaking traffic safety laws has deadly consequences. Of the people killed in Tennessee motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2011, 57 percent were not wearing their seat belts at the time of the crash. Twenty-seven percent of the fatalities involved drivers or motorcycle riders with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or above and 23 percent were involved in speeding-related crashes.

More violations of basic traffic safety laws like not wearing a seat belt occur during nighttime hours. In 2011, 10,135 passenger vehicle occupants in the Unites States were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes at night (6:00 p.m. to 5:59 a.m.). Of those killed in nighttime crashes, 62 percent were not wearing seat belts, compared to 43 percent of daytime (6:00 a.m. to 5:59 p.m.) occupant fatalities.

“The statistics prove that violating Tennessee’s traffic safety laws can be deadly, and law enforcement officers will be out in force cracking down on unsafe drivers,” said Kendell Poole, Director of the Governor’s Highway Safety Office. “We hope the high visibility of the More Cops. More Stops. enforcement campaign will remind people to drive responsibly, reduce traffic crashes, and ultimately save lives in Tennessee.”

Tennessee law enforcement teamed with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to test the effectiveness of a combined highway safety law enforcement campaign called More Cops. More Stops. For more information on the More Cops. More Stops. campaign, please visit www.trafficsafetymarketing.gov or www.tntrafficsafety.org for more information.

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Press Releases

100+ Law Enforcement Officials Agree: Wine too Dangerous for Grocery Store Sales

Press release from Tennessee Law Enforcement for Strong Alcohol Laws; January 9, 2013:

Nashville, Tenn. (January 9, 2013) – More than 100 Tennessee chiefs of police and sheriffs have signed a pledge calling on state legislators to oppose the sale of wine in grocery and convenience stores out of concern for public safety and health. The loose coalition called “Tennessee Law Enforcement for Strong Alcohol Laws” includes 106 law enforcement leaders from Tennessee communities of all sizes, including Knoxville, Memphis, Kingsport, and Jackson.

The announcement was made at Legislative Plaza by Madison County Sheriff David Woolfork and Belle Meade Police Chief Timothy Eads, representing their colleagues across the state. They were joined at the event by the police chiefs of Knoxville and Jackson, the sheriffs of Crockett, Chester, Haywood, and Marshall counties, and representatives of the Mt. Pleasant and Waynesboro police departments and Perry County sheriff’s office.

“Tennessee has among the strongest alcohol laws in the country and we want to keep it that way,” said Sheriff Woolfork. “The added convenience that supporters of this law want is not worth jeopardizing the life or safety of even one citizen of this state. As sheriffs and chiefs of police, we deal with the painful consequences of alcohol abuse every day. It makes no sense to increase the availability of high-proof alcohol and create new problems that other states with looser laws are trying to solve. Our departments can’t afford it and our state cannot afford it.”

Should the proposed bill pass, the number of stores selling high-proof alcohol could rise 10 fold, from fewer than 600 to over 5,000. Currently, wine and spirits can only be sold in specialty stores that must be owned by Tennesseans, are limited in size, can have only one door, and can sell only one product – alcohol. Woolfork emphasized that the proposed law would put high proof alcohol not only in grocery stores, but in convenience stores, truck stops, urban markets, gas stations and mega big box stores. None of these environments are tightly controlled, Woolfork said. Eads said high-proof alcohol should not be treated in the marketplace the same way as other grocery items.

“Wine is not a food product and should not be sold as one,” said Eads. “No one has ever overdosed or caused an accident by eating too many grapes. There’s an appropriate retail environment for selling wine and other high-proof spirits, and a convenience store or Walmart is not it.”

Wine contains up to 3 times the alcohol content as beer, which is why it belongs in tightly controlled environments, the law enforcement officials said. They stressed that young people in their communities do drink wine, particularly boxed and sweet wines, because it makes them intoxicated faster than beer.

National and international research demonstrates that increased alcohol availability leads to higher instances of underage drinking,  domestic violence and fatalities in a community. Woolfork said law enforcement departments are already struggling under tight budgets and this law would only make their jobs more difficult.

“There’s no question that the more stores you have selling high-proof alcohol the more problems law enforcement will have to deal with,” said Woolfork. “It’s not just grocery stores in suburban neighborhoods that will be impacted by the bill, but also markets in urban areas that are already struggling with crime. There’s no benefit to this bill other than consumer convenience. Some things shouldn’t be too convenient.”

Woolfork invited other state sheriffs, police chiefs and other members of law enforcement to join the effort and sign the pledge, and called on legislators to put public safety first.

“Take pride in the system we have put in place to control the sale of alcohol,” said Woolfork. “Tennessee is a model for other states of how to strike the right balance between access and control. We urge lawmakers to put safety before convenience and say no to putting wine in grocery and convenience stores.”

 

Participating Sheriffs and Chiefs:

SHERIFFS

  • Sheriff Tony King, Benton County
  • Sheriff James Ruth, Bradley County
  • Sheriff Chris Mathes, Carter County
  • Sheriff Blair Weaver, Chester County
  • Sheriff Armando Fontes, Cocke County
  • Sheriff Toy Klyce, Crockett County
  • Sheriff Roy Wyatt, Decatur County
  • Sheriff Jeff Box, Dyer County
  • Sheriff Tony Choate, Fentress County
  • Sheriff Charles W. Arnold, Gibson County
  • Sheriff Kyle Helton, Giles County
  • Sheriff Brent Myers, Grundy County
  • Sheriff Esco Jarnagin, Hamblen County
  • Sheriff Jim Hammond, Hamilton County
  • Sheriff Leamon Maxey, Hancock County
  • Sheriff Sammy Davidson, Hardin County
  • Sheriff Ronnie Lawson, Hawkins County
  • Sheriff Melvin Bond, Haywood County
  • Sheriff Brian Duke, Henderson County
  • Sheriff William Reece, Johnson County
  • Sheriff Steve Sanders, Lauderdale County
  • Sheriff Murray Blackwelder, Lincoln County
  • Sheriff Time Guider, Loudon County
  • Sheriff David Woolfork, Madison County
  • Sheriff Norman Dalton, Marshall County
  • Sheriff Jackie Melton, Meigs County
  • Sheriff Joe Guy, McMinn County
  • Sheriff Mark Logan, Moore County
  • Sheriff Tommy Hickerson, Perry County
  • Sheriff W.B. Melton, Overton County
  • Sheriff Michael Cross, Scott County
  • Sheriff Ronnie Hitchcock, Sequatchie County
  • Sheriff Ronald L. Seals, Sevier County
  • Sheriff Bill Oldham, Shelby County
  • Sheriff Ray Russell, Trousdale County
  • Sheriff Michael Hensley, Unicoi County
  • Sheriff Grayson Beasley, Van Buren County
  • Sheriff Jackie Matheny, Warren County

POLICE CHIEFS

  • Chief Jerry Christopher, Adamsville PD
  • Chief Mark Coulon, Ashland City PD
  • Chief Jessie Poole, Atoka PD
  • Chief Danny Holmes, Baxter PD
  • Chief Tim Eads, Belle Meade PD
  • Chief Roger Jenkins, Bells PD
  • Chief James Winstead, Blaine PD
  • Chief James Baker, Bolivar PD
  • Chief Chris Lea, Brownsville PD
  • Chief Paul McCallister, Burns PD
  • Chief John Hogan, Carthage PD
  • Chief Johnny E. Jones, Caryville PD
  • Chief Jackie King, Chapel Hill PD
  • Chief Hank Hayden, Charleston PD
  • Chief Rick Scarbrough, Clinton PD
  • Chief Daniel Farris, Collinwood PD
  • Chief Todd Bone, Cornersville PD
  • Chief Carson Williams, Dandridge PD
  • Chief Kim Wallace, Dover PD
  • Chief Randal Walker, Dresden PD
  • Chief Mark Moore, Erin PD
  • Chief Wayne Harris, Gordonsville PD
  • Chief Justin Powers, Grand Junction PD
  • Chief Richard Hatfield, Greenbrier PD
  • Chief Ricky DeSpain, Halls PD
  • Chief Raymond Simmons, Humbodlt PD
  • Chief Gill Kendrick, Jackson PD
  • Chief Ken Hancock, Jamestown PD
  • Chief Gale Osborne, Kingsport PD
  • Chief Jim Washam, Kingston PD
  • Chief David Rausch, Knoxville PD
  • Chief Judy Moore, Lawrenceburg PD
  • Chief Don White, Lenoir City PD
  • Chief Bobby Joe Killen, Loretto PD
  • Chief Tony Jay Crisp, Maryville PD
  • Chief Kim Barker, McKenzie PD
  • Director Toney Armstrong, Memphis PD
  • Chief Ronnie Williams, Millersville PD
  • Chief Virgil McNeece, Monteagle PD
  • Chief Roger Overholt, Morristown PD
  • Chief Willie Jackson, Moscow PD
  • Chief Tommy Goetz, Mount Pleasant PD
  • Chief James A. Hambrick, Mt. Juliet PD
  • Chief James T. Akagi, Oak Ridge PD
  • Chief Richard Jewell, Oakland PD
  • Chief Royce Aker, Obion PD
  • Chief Darryl Laxton, Oneida PD
  • Chief Thomas Elizondo, Paris PD
  • Chief Michael Douglas, Pleasant View PD
  • Chief Richard Smith, Portland PD
  • Chief Terry Parker, Powells Crossroads PD
  • Chief John Dickey, Pulaski PD
  • Chief Terry Tuck, Red Boiling Springs PD
  • Chief Jeffrey A. White, Ridgetop PD
  • Chief Jerry Temple, Ripley PD
  • Chief Mike Hensley, Rutherford PD
  • Chief Richard McGinnis, Rutledge PD
  • Chief Donald Derr, Savannah PD
  • Chief David Alexander, Scotts Hill PD
  • Chief Ricky Hoskins, Somerville PD
  • Chief Eddie Carter, Spencer PD
  • Chief Don Brite, Spring Hill PD
  • Chief Will Sanders, Trenton PD
  • Chief David Smith, Trezevant PD
  • Chief Joe Hall, Watertown PD
  • Chief George Barturen, Waynesboro PD
  • Chief Mike Holman, White Bluff PD
  • Chief Steven Stanley, Whiteville PD
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Press Releases

State Announces Creation of New Identity-Crimes Unit

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security; August 28, 2012:

NASHVILLE—Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons announced today the formation of a new investigative unit to combat the increase in identity theft and related crimes in Tennessee. The newly formed Identity Crimes Unit is comprised of employees from three divisions of the department: Tennessee Highway Patrol, Office of Homeland Security, and Driver Services Division.

Additionally, the Identity Crimes Unit is receiving support from federal partners. The United States Secret Service Nashville and Memphis field offices; Homeland Security Investigations, under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; and the Federal Bureau of Investigation Memphis division, are supporting the Identity Crimes Unit in investigations with possible federal violations.

The new unit is the direct outgrowth of the department’s top-to-bottom review requested last year by Governor Bill Haslam.

“As part of the top-to-bottom review, we focused on the needs of our citizens and the law enforcement community, as well as ways we could maximize the effective use of the resources we have,” Gibbons said.

According to the Consumer Sentinel Network, a date base used by law enforcement to collect consumer complaints, in 2011 there were 4,275 complaints of identity theft filed in Tennessee, compared to 4,175 filed in 2010. Nationwide, in 2011 there were 279,156 complaints of identity theft filed, compared to 258,854 filed in 2010.

“Identity crimes are a growing part of our crime problem, and many local law enforcement agencies struggle with investigating these cases. In addition, the Highway Patrol has specific authority under state law to investigate identity theft, there are obvious homeland security concerns with such crimes, and many identity crimes relate to driver licenses. So, we see it as a great opportunity for all three divisions of the department—our state troopers, homeland security agents, and driver license examiners—to work together as a team,” Gibbons noted.

The Identity Crimes Unit provides support to local law enforcement upon request, but will consider several factors to determine the level of involvement. Some of these factors include fraudulent use of a driver license; a nexus to homeland security issues; cooperation of victims; violation of Tennessee’s felony theft law; the number, financial amount, and frequency of transactions; and referral from a federal agency. Investigators and staff assigned to the Identity Crimes Unit have been training for months to increase skills in the area of identity crimes and collect best practices for this type of investigating from other states.

The unit has created a resource kit for identity theft victims and has linked it to www.tn.gov/safety. Investigators will also participate in programs and events to encourage identity theft awareness, distribute educational materials to safeguard against identity crimes, and encourage the public to take proactive steps to reduce the debilitating impacts of identity crimes.

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Hostility to Liberty Part of Government’s DNA

Tennessee blogger and tea party activist Ken Marrero has an op-ed in the Washington Examiner that criticizes Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s proposal to collect DNA samples from anyone arrested for a felony.

Present law in Tennessee requires that police obtain samples only from suspects arrested under suspicion of committing a violent felony, according to the General Assembly’s legislative summary of Ramsey’s bill, SB257.

Ramsey’s suggested changes would require a biological sample be taken in all felony arrests as “a condition of the person’s release on bond or recognizance.”

Writes Marrero:

If charges are dropped or the accused is not convicted, the sample is destroyed. Detractors see this as an acknowledgment of the bill’s weakness. If the criteria for sample retention is a conviction, why not delay collection until then?

Marrero, who blogs at Blue Collar Muse, worries that Ramsey’s bill represents yet another step away from the bedrock constitutional principle in this country that one is innocent until proven guilty. Furthermore, writes Marrero, does anyone really believe the government can be trusted to actually get rid of all record of the samples in the event that an arrest proves wrongful? Also, what happens to the samples in the interim?

Technical innovation is welcomed by the law abiding. But I cannot sanction violating one law while enforcing another. The pursuit of justice must not itself create injustices and securing the rights of the people must remain the highest priority of government.

In a rapidly changing technical environment and with the ability of multiple jurisdictions to pass laws concerning the collection and use of DNA, extreme vigilance must be maintained to ensure the rights and liberties of Americans are not trampled in the process.

SB257 hasn’t yet received a hearing. Its companion bill in the House of Representatives is sponsored by Bristol Republican John Lunberg.