Tennessee bill about officer-involved shootings causes transparency concerns

Open government advocates are speaking out against an amendment to a bill that would keep investigations into officer-involved shootings closed to the public unless the district attorney for the area the shooting happened in, and the chief officer for the law enforcement agency involved, agree to release the findings.

That could keep investigative findings about an officer involved shooting from the public indefinitely. The amendment is part of a bill that originally required the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to investigate all officer-involved shootings.


Bill would black out police bodycam videos in Tenn.

Legislation produced and given quick initial approval by a state House panel last week would prohibit public disclosure of most body camera recordings made by Tennessee law enforcement officers for at least a year — and potentially keep video of police misconduct under wraps for even longer.  Continue…



New Tennessee law could make requesting public records less confusing

The Tennessee Legislature has passed a bill that will require nearly every government office across the state to tell citizens how they can get public records.

The measure first directs the open records counsel in the state comptroller’s office to come up with a model public records policy that local government agencies could adapt. The legislation would then require government offices to have a written public records policy by July 17, 2017.


Tennessee judge denies stay in Sumner schools open records case

The Sumner County Board of Education must accept records requests via email and telephone by next week, according to a Tennessee Court of Appeals ruling Wednesday.

The school system requested a stay by the appeals court last month, which would have delayed the implementation of a new public records policy by March 1.

However, the court found “no grounds to reverse the trial court’s decision” regarding the request.


Tennessee approves funding to address open records backlog

In an attempt to alleviate a backlog of open records requests, a Senate committee on Tuesday granted Tennessee Comptroller Justin Wilson additional funding dedicated to hiring two new employees who will be tasked with addressing the issue.

During the comptroller’s annual budget presentation to the Senate finance committee, Wilson requested $264,000 to specifically hire the employees for the Office of Records Counsel, which is overseen by Wilson’s office.


Tennessee school district’s legal bills in records fight climb to $113,000

Sumner County Schools' most recent legal bills show the district has spent more than $113,000 defending an open records case now headed to the Tennessee Court of Appeals.

Sumner school board members voted unanimously on Dec. 1, 2015 to appeal Judge Dee David Gay’s ruling that the district violated the Tennessee Public Records Act when it refused a Joelton man’s records request.


Tennessee school district to appeal judge’s ruling

Sumner County Schools will go back to court to fight a judge's ruling that would force the board of education to accept records requests from the public by email and telephone.

School board members voted unanimously on Dec. 1 to appeal the case in which Ken Jakes of Joelton sued after a school official denied his request to view a document because he didn't ask for it in person or in a letter delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.


Chattanooga plans effort to get rid of decades of stored records

In the dim light of a smartphone, the lettering on the side of the 10-odd white storage boxes is faintly legible: "Confidential Medical Information. Medical Personnel Only." A few feet away, in this darkened corner of a storage warehouse on East Main Street, another box is labeled "Unpaid Parking Tickets." There are long cabinets with flat drawers — the label on one reads "TVA Project." Two mattresses sprawl incongruously nearby.


Police body cameras spark debate about privacy in Tennessee

As debates ramp up across the nation over the use of police body cameras, law enforcement officials have taken up a common refrain. Yes, police interact with civilians in public spaces, and those interactions should be recorded with body cameras.

But police work also involves being called to a person’s home on the worst day of his or her life, whether that’s to report domestic violence or a break-in.


Hearings planned on proposed changes to Tennessee records laws

The state Office of Open Records Counsel is holding a series of hearings this week about a proposal to make taxpayers pay to inspect public records in Tennessee.

Under current law, government officials can charge for photocopies of public records, but viewing them is free. Records custodians often prohibit citizens from taking pictures or scanning records themselves. Continue…