KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A state representative is applauding Knoxville Police Chief Paul Noel after his announcement of creating a Use of Force Review Board within the department.
“This absolutely was a tragedy,” Noel said about the death of 17-year-old Anthony Thompson Jr. “But this is also a time for us to heal.”
Thompson was a student at Austin-East Magnet High School when he was shot and killed by a KPD officer. An incident many are still processing nearly a year and a half later.
“This was a horrific action that took place inside of the hallowed halls at my alma mater and one of our public schools,” Tennessee 15th District State Representative Sam McKenzie said. “It’s unfortunate all around.”
Noel announced Wednesday at the officer-involved shooting at Austin-East Magnet High School press conference that he is organizing the Use of Force Review Board. Noel made the announcement after the investigation concluded that the use of force was ‘justified’ in the incident.
The review board will investigate high-profile use of force cases and not have a disciplinary function, according to Noel.
“We’ll look at the totality of the circumstances to see if individual officers need to be trained, or if the whole department needs to be retrained, or if we have to augment policy or tactics based upon the review of those incidents,” he said.
McKenzie applauds Noel’s decision on starting a review board that will help look into the use of force cases.
“I know that there were errors on all sides, so I just hope this isn’t the end of it,” McKenzie said. “I don’t want this to be deemed as somehow the end of the story. A child lost his life. Someone’s son did not make it home.”
The review board will also look into serious use of force cases, which includes firearm discharges resulting in injuries, K-9 bites and in-custody deaths.
“When we’re looking at these, we have to put ourselves in the position of the police officers in the field,” Noel said. “The officers don’t the ability to slow something to 10 times slower than things happening in real life.”
Noel asserts that the Use of Force Review Board is not being made because of the deadly incident at Austin-East High School. He added that it instead led the department to streamline and improve the internal affairs process.
He calls the review board, a “best practice.”
“It’s long overdue,” McKenzie added. “I applaud this new chief as far as being innovative. Our previous chief, I don’t think, would’ve taken this type of measure. So to be clear, I thank Chief Noel for acknowledging that we need to take a deeper dive that was done on this one.”
There is no set date when the Use of Force Review Board will be active but Noel said it will very soon. The board will not replace any current reviewing process or change the role of the police advisory and review committee.