KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon said she has pride in the city’s Police Department and confidence in Chief Eve Thomas. The statement from the mayor’s office was shared a day after reports of an officer facing an internal investigation stemming from alleged racist remarks made while off-duty at a recent wedding reception.

Kincannon did not mention any specific incident in her statement, but shared the following message that touched on racism and best practices:

“I have confidence in our Police Department. I have confidence in Chief Thomas and I have confidence in our officers.”

“Chief Thomas and I are united in our commitment to tackling tough issues together and with urgency.  

“Do we have challenges? Yes. We have to tackle crime head-on and ensure the safety of neighborhoods. We have to address culture issues — including racism. And — we have to support our officers and address their concerns about recruitment, retention, wellness and morale.  

“My expectations are clear — we do not and cannot tolerate racism and must strive for excellence each day and in each interaction as we seek to keep our city safe.    

“Just in the last 18 months since I took office, we’ve taken huge steps to accelerate innovation and best practices within our Police Department:

  • Continued implementing major effort to diversify our police force;  
  • Completed harassment training for all KPD employees through the UT Law Enforcement Innovation Center; 
  • Updated and expanded cultural competency training for recruits in the academy; 
  • Implemented in-service cultural diversity/awareness training for all sworn KPD employees; 
  • Updated the Use of Force and Code of Conduct policies to ensure alignment with the ‘8 Can’t Wait’ principles; 
  • Implemented body-worn cameras; 
  • Launched a new co-response program to improve response alternatives for 911 calls involving a person experiencing a behavioral or mental health crisis; 
  • Invested in new Violence Interruption efforts to develop and strengthen evidence-based community partnerships to address violent crime; 
  • Created new Community Engagement Response Team to provide focused crime deterrence and response in areas of higher crime;  
  • Launched annual duty to intervene training for all employees; 
  • Upcoming all-day supervisory training for KPD and all departments to review how to promote diversity and properly handle incidences of harassment and discrimination in the workplace — including specialized supervisory training for uniformed staff; 
  • New requirement for officers to volunteer and engage in the community. 

“I need and trust Chief Thomas to move KPD forward amidst these challenges that we and communities across the country face. We have to tackle these issues together — not tear each other down.” 

On Thursday night, KPD shared the following statement from Chief Thomas:

“We are committed to addressing the many tough challenges that we face head on. I am doing that, the Mayor is doing that, and our officers are doing that every day as they work to keep our community safe. We are acting with urgency to confront difficult issues and eliminate any culture issues that threaten to compromise the integrity of the department and public trust.”

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