TBI: Number of officer-involved shootings they investigate is on the rise

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is increasingly being asked to investigate officer-involved shootings.

The agency is also seeing more of them than in years past.

Nashville's CBS affiliate reported on one more officer-involved shooting Tuesday in Williamson County.  TBI leaders said a suspect stopped his vehicle on an overpass, brandished a weapon and pointed it at a pursuing deputy. The deputies fired, and the suspect died.

This is just one more officer-involved shooting the TBI is investigating.

Spokesman Josh DeVine said in a statement to WHNT News 19:

"While we certainly cannot speculate on the uptick in recent years in the number of these types of incidents, our data shows a 43% increase in a five-year average (2011 to 2015) of 49 a year to 70 in 2016.

With the agreements in place to investigate certain use-of-force incidents in Nashville and Memphis, we estimate our agency will investigate at least 85 of these incidents in 2017."

District Attorneys General across the state can also request that a TBI special agent investigate a crime in their community.

According to TBI annual reports, violent and white-collar crimes make up a large percentage of cases worked by the Field Investigation Unit. That's the boots on the ground in the TBI, which the organization considers its "heartbeat."

But now, agents say crime scene investigators' caseload has doubled in the past year due to added commitments to independently investigate officer-involved incidents.

"I think post-Ferguson, that role has definitely increased for TBI," commented TBI Director Mark Gwyn during recent interviews with area media outlets, including WHNT News 19.

"This year, we are on track to work close to 85," he said. "The reason being TBI is an independent agency. Post Ferguson, and Baltimore, and those types of cases there has been a greater need. The public is expecting an independent investigation on those type of incidences. When you look at that in Tennessee, we are the logical agency to conduct that independent investigation and we take that responsibility very seriously."

Gwyn said the awareness of officer-involved shootings and incidents is also increasing within the climate of the country, and that may be part of why the agency is called to investigate them.

Still, he did not want to speculate on why the numbers are increasing.

"99.9% of the calls that are answered every day by law enforcement result in a good outcome," he later noted during the interview.

When there is a bad outcome, it is time for the TBI and others to get to work to find out why.