Sheriff Bonner weighs in on efforts to limit military equipment and tear gas use by deputies

Sheriff Bonner weighs in on efforts to limit military equipment and tear gas use by deputies

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Two of three proposed ordinances that could limit the scope of Shelby County sheriff deputies and jailers passed the first reading in commission Monday.

Monday’s vote comes after a fiery exchange among commissioners in a Shelby County Commission committee meeting last week as the proposed ordinances were being introduced.

Monday, Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner was given a chance to respond.

County commissioners are considering an ordinance to disqualify any applicant to the sheriff’s office with a history of termination for excessive force complaints.

“I understand the spirit of this ordinance but the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office can’t do anything more than what it’s doing now,” Bonner said.

Bonner says his office is already reporting all terminated officers to the state.

He says there are checks and balances within Tennessee, but he says the real problem lies with the lack of participation in the national decertification database.

“We can decertify in Tennessee, but they can go to Mississippi, Missouri, Kentucky, anywhere,” Bonner said.

This ordinance passed to the second reading for more discussion and so did a second ordinance to restrict the sheriff’s office from receiving military-grade weaponry and equipment such as tactical and automatic weapons.

However Sheriff Bonner says he has no intention of receiving any of those items, in fact, he says most of those items are illegal for local law enforcement.

“I’ve heard tomahawk missiles and Apache helicopters. These are things that no law enforcement agency could receive from the military,” said Bonner.

However, Commissioner Sawyer who sponsored the ordinances says she wants to make sure certain standards are put in place for future administrations at the Sheriff’s office.

The third ordinance would limit the number of chemical agents used by deputies and jailers such as pepper spray.

Bonner said if you take away officers' ability to use chemical agents then they would be forced to use physical contact.

That ordinance failed.

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