A Tennessee lawmaker wants to punish police officers who decide to shut off department-issued body cameras with a felony charge.
The proposal, floated by Memphis Democratic state Rep. G.A. Hardaway, appears to have been prompted in part by a 2018 incident where several police officers were found to have shut off their body cameras before opening fire on local man during a pursuit.
The bill, “as introduced, creates Class E felony of law enforcement officer operating a law enforcement body camera in any manner that would prevent the creation of evidence with the intent to obstruct justice.”
Class E felonies in Tennessee represent the least serious category of felonies and carry a prison sentence of between one to six years in addition to fines of up to $3,000.
The September 2018 officer-involved shooting saw a 26-year-old man named Martavious Banks left in critical condition. Banks apparently fled from police during a motor vehicle stop after telling officers he lacked both a drivers license and insurance. Police allege Banks reached between the seat for a gun and then sped away.
Local24 sits down with Janice Banks, Martavious Banks’ mom, to talk about the latest policy violations released in the Martavious Banks shooting. She is upset with what she feels is minimal punishment of officers and continuing cover up of the events the night her son was shot. pic.twitter.com/QqlkRrRGst
— Janice Bridges (@local24janice) February 23, 2019
The shooting occurred after police managed to pull Banks over a second time. A trio of police officers apparently shut off their body cameras moments before the final encounter. The incident, which saw the officers fail to adhere to multiple elements of protocol, resulted in mass city protests. The officer who shot Banks has since resigned, while the other two received unpaid 20-day suspensions. A fourth lieutenant who arrived on the scene during the aftermath of the shooting was given a 5-day suspension for apparently shutting off his body camera.
MARTAVIOUS BANKS SHOOTING UPDATE: The MPD officer accused of shooting Martavious Banks during a traffic stop in September has resigned. Three other officers were reportedly disciplined for violating department policy. @LocalMemphis pic.twitter.com/fjHynNIF4r
— Dave Detling (@Local24Dave) February 23, 2019
Banks survived his injuries. His legal team has argued that all three officers should have been fired from their jobs and are punishing for criminal charges to be filed.
.@MEM_PoliceDept & @TBInvestigation finished their investigations into Martavious Banks shooting. TBI sent its report to @ShelbyCountyDA in Jan. Banks’ legal team thinks all the officers should be fired & indicted for attempted murder. No comment from DA’s office yet. #Memphis pic.twitter.com/TzjJFUh7GH
— Joyce Peterson (@MemphoNewsLady) February 23, 2019
Banks’s family has argued that his lengthy criminal history did not justify the shooting.
As for the legislative proposal to punish body camera scofflaws, WREG News Channel 3 reports Memphis Police Association members are threatening to walk off the job if Hardaway’s measure becomes law.
“What we want to do is take the issue of tampering with evidence, obstructing justice and put some specific language into the Tennessee code,” Hardaway told the network.