Both Republican Bill Lee and Democrat Karl Dean say the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation should continue to investigate officer-involved shooting deaths, but they disagree on whether that role should expand.
At Friday’s final gubernatorial debate, Lee and Dean were asked whether they would support mandating the TBI to investigate all officer-involved shootings, not just those that end in fatalities.
Dean said he hopes the local police departments would ask an outside agency to investigate the shootings, before mandating it as governor. But, he said, “I would not be afraid to look at that and mandating that also."
Dean said he would consider allocating additional funding to pay for these investigations.
“For me, things like this — like basic justice, and how people respond to the criminal justice system, and how much they trust it, and how much people think the justice system is blind to racial issues, and other issues — (are) important, and it would be worth those dollars,” Dean said.
Lee said he believes the state’s bureau should maintain its current policy of investigating fatal officer-involved shootings, but he said the state doesn’t have the resources to investigate those that don’t end in death.
Lee said he would work with local law enforcement agencies to improve the system that investigates non-fatal shootings.
The TBI currently investigates officer-involved shootings that end in fatalities, like the case of Daniel Hambrick, who was killed by Metro Police Office Andrew Delke during a foot pursuit. But the TBI was also recently brought in to investigate an officer-involved shooting in Memphis that left Martavius Banks critically wounded. Even the Memphis Police Department asked the TBI to get involved, expressing concern that the officer who shot Banks had his body camera turned off.
Intervening In Executions
The gubernatorial debate at Belmont University was held the day after Gov. Bill Haslam granted a 10-day reprieve to death row inmate Edmund Zagorski, whose execution was scheduled for Oct. 11. Haslam has declined to commute Zagorski's sentence.
Both Lee and Dean said they would likely decline to intervene in executions. Lee said that, although a difficult topic, the law in the state allows for the the death penalty, something he said he agrees with in the “most heinous and egregious of crimes.”
“I don't think that it would be my place to replace my judgement for the execution of justice through the criminal justice system,” Lee said.
He recognized the possibility of flaws in “the system,” and in those cases, he said he would consider dropping the death penalty.
Dean said the death penalty comes “as part of our democratic process,” but that concerns about whether there could be additional evidence after an execution could have an impact on final decisions.
“All of that is available information that should be debated and discussed,” Dean said. “But that is ultimately up to the people of Tennessee and up to the legislature and, as governor, I would follow the law.”