Jonesborough Mayor Chuck Vest

Jonesborough Mayor Chuck Vest speaks to Jonesborough Police Chief Ron Street prior to a town meeting in August. 

The Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved a change to the Jonesborough Police Department‘s use of force policy during a meeting Monday night, making it compliant with state standards announced in July.

According to a press release from Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s office on July 2, law enforcement agencies across the state were given 60 days to review their use of force and duty to intervene policies to ensure chokeholds are not used as a restraining technique and require officers to prevent any act, even by other officers, that violates law or policy.

Jonesborough Public Safety Director Craig Ford said the town’s use of force policy was already compliant, but the town did not have a duty to intervene policy. Agencies could either review their policies to ensure compliance, or adopt the state’s policy.

“We decided it easier just adopt the new state policy,” Ford said.

Alderman Adam Dickson was part of a subcommittee to offer feedback on the state’s proposed policy changes, and said they had concerns about the use of neck restraints, but were pleased with how it was explained it to them. Dickson said their primary concern was with when a neck restraint would be deployed, and were told any chokehold would only be used in deadly force situations and not as a restraint technique.

“That made me comfortable, and it also shows that law enforcement wants to have a healthy dialogue with elected officials of the larger community,” Dickson said.

Mayor Chuck Vest said he was proud of the town’s public safety department for being proactive in doing more cultural diversity and de-escalation training, saying that town “got on it early on once the tragedy up in Minnesota happened,” referencing the Memorial Day death of George Floyd, a Black man, in police custody.

“We want to make sure our police force was doing what the public expects,” Vest said, “and they were.”

The reforms also aimed to improve access to information about officers who have lost licenses or certificates due to misconduct, and increase the amount of training officers receive, particularly on de-escalation techniques, duty to intervene policies, public assembly interaction and positive community and officer interactions and relationships.

Other business:

The board made two decisions related to the town’s K-8 school project, voting to establish a separate bank account for school-related expenditures, and give the town the flexibility to its $32.75 million bond note as one or more notes.

According to the town, the plan is to issue a note for anticipated expenses through December, and then a separate note for the remainder of the money. The aim of the change is to allow the town to “achieve lower interest and competitive financing” for the second note.

“It’s important for us to keep the project moving forward, and this was an opportunity for us to really benefit financially,” Vest said.

The town also approved two Tennessee Department of Transportation constructions projects at the intersection of U.S. Highway 11E and Big Limestone Road, and the intersection on U.S. 11E and Culver Road. The town will need to relocate a 6-inch water main for the first project, which will need to occur before March 2021.

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