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TBI outlines crime challenges, budget needs for lawmakers


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (OSBORNE)  --  The Director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is offering a surprisingly grim assessment of the law enforcement challenges the state currently faces.

TBI Director Mark Gwyn spoke to the House Criminal Justice Committee on Wednesday.

Gwyn told lawmakers than in his three decades at TBI, he’s never witnessed the kind of pressure agents now face.

“I’m starting to see agents getting stressed where I can visibly see it, where they’re wanting to talk about being stressed with the case load they have. That concerns me a lot.”

Gwyn outlined some of the top crime challenges the agency faces. He noted, for example, that rural West Tennessee now has a serious gang problem.

“I get calls from people that say, ‘You know, my mother can’t come out of the house past dark because of all the gunshots.’”

Gwyn says he gets federal briefings that help TBI stay ahead of new crime trends, but he says no one anticipated the wave of drug overdoses and deaths resulting daily from the introduction of extremely potent illicit synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

To confront that problem, Gwyn told legislators he currently has about one drug investigator for every two Tennessee counties.

Gwyn says his agency is also being called on to investigate a growing number of officer involved shootings. He says TBI investigated 81 such shootings last year, up from 49 such incidents in 2016.

“These investigations are very volatile as you know, post Ferguson and Baltimore. We’ve had two in Shelby County I think in the last couple days.”

Several Criminal Justice Committee members indicated a willingness to see the TBI gets additional resources in the next fiscal year.