Knoxville Mercury reporter S. Heather Duncan’s multi-part examination of the Knoxville Police Department’s accountability, community relations, and citizen oversight.
1. The Police
Checks and Balances: How well does KPD police its own officers?
In 2015, the Knoxville Police Department and its officers were involved in a series of cases that have raised questions of accountability. The city faces lawsuits over police brutality related to the shooting death of a fleeing man and the alleged beating of a Hispanic man, several officers have been accused of racial profiling in efforts to make drug arrests, dashcam recordings of altercations with police (including the K-9 mauling of a suspect) have been missing at trial, and a judge has said KPD needs to provide more training on citizens’ rights.
2. The Community
Equal Protection: Can KPD overcome the doubts of Knoxville’s black community?
Local tensions have been discussed publicly by hundreds of people who attended forums held by Community Step Up, the FBI, and a local Black Lives Matter group. While some of that distrust has been put aside as both the community and Knoxville police grapple and grieve over a spate of gang-related shootings, the gap between the police experience and that of some vocal black residents is wide.
3. The Arbitrator
Citizen Review: Does Knoxville’s Police Advisory Review Committee hold KPD accountable?
Knoxville’s Police Advisory Review Committee, which reports directly to the mayor, was established more than 17 years ago to investigate complaints against the Knoxville Police Department and make recommendations about its policies. PARC was designed specifically to be less intimidating to the public than filing a complaint with the KPD Internal Affairs Unit. But many community members say it is not fulfilling its mission as intended.
S. Heather Duncan has won numerous awards for her feature writing and coverage of the environment, government, education, business and local history during her 15-year reporting career. Originally from Western North Carolina, Heather has worked for Radio Free Europe, the Institute for War and Peace Reporting in London, and several daily newspapers. Heather spent almost a dozen years at The Telegraph in Macon, Ga., where she spent most of her time covering the environment or writing project-investigations that provoked changes such as new laws related to day care and the protection of environmentally-sensitive lands. You can reach Heather at firstname.lastname@example.org
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