Knoxville Police Department making policy changes for ‘use of force’ cases

The Knoxville Police Department will be implementing some changes on how it reviews instances where officers use force in the field.
Published: Aug. 17, 2022 at 3:52 PM CDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - The Knoxville Police Department will be implementing some changes on how it reviews instances where officers use force in the field.

The decision was announced Wednesday afternoon when Chief Paul Noel released the findings of an internal investigation into a 2021 officer-involved shooting at Austin-East Magnet High School.

The changes will come in the form of the Use of Force Review Board, Noel said, which will serve as a way for KPD to reevaluate how officers’ actions could have resulted in less damage. Noel told WVLT News that the Austin-East incident did not inspire him to form the board, as he had planned on creating it anyway.

In 2020, KPD saw 110 instances where officers used force, according to records from the department. That number in 2019 was 122 and 171 in 2018.

The board will conduct deep-dive reviews of in-custody deaths, cases where deadly force is used and “all other serious use of force,” aiming at department improvement, Communications Manager Scott Erland said. The board will not function as a disciplinary body.

“As a department, we should never turn down an opportunity to take a really close look at these more serious or consequential uses of force,” Noel said. “Even in instances when we follow all of our training and policies by the book, there are likely more nuanced matters that we can address to avoid putting our officers or citizens in harm’s way or a situation where our officers have to resort to using deadly force.”

As it stands, use of force instances are reviewed by the responding officers’ chain of command and, in cases where policy violation might have happened, the Internal Affairs Unit, Erland said. This additional policy will not replace this process, but rather serve as another form of quality control for the department, Noel said.

The board “will supplement those efforts by taking a deep dive into the circumstances that led to the use of force to determine if the department needs to adjust its policy, procedures or training,” a release from KPD states.

When implemented, the board will also review cases where officers fire their weapons, those resulting in serious injury or hospitalization and K-9 bites.

“I am committed and our organization is committed to continual improvement, and this Board is part of that commitment,” Noel said. “By taking a holistic look at these cases, we can reduce their frequency while also identifying and addressing gaps in training and policy. It’s a win-win for our organization and the community.”

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