Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

The number of civilian deaths in 2020 while in custody of law enforcement remained consistent with 2019’s, according to a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation report released this week.

A total of 96 people died while in some form of police custody in 2020, the same as in 2019. In 2018 there were 180 law enforcement-related deaths.

The 2020 report showed that of the 96 deaths, 28 were a result of deadly use-of-force incidents in the state, with nearly half of those occurring between May and July.

According to the TBI website, tn.gov/tbi, the reports “only contain information pertaining to deaths that occurred in the presence of law enforcement or deaths that occurred while in custody, such as in a local jail or prison. Introduction scope of study data in this study does not include occurrences where an officer fired his/her weapon in a situation which did not result in a death or when a subject sustained a serious bodily injury directly related to use of force by a law enforcement officer.”

Some of the breakdowns for 2020:

  • Highest number of the year’s 28 deadly use-of-force deaths in a single month: 5, which occurred in May;
  • 42% of deaths occurred on a highway/alley/street/sidewalk;
  • 39% happened when officers responded to a report of unlawful activity;
  • 72.4% were white victims and 16.1% were Black;
  • The age bracket of 35-44 had the most deaths;
  • 96.8% were men, 3.2% were women;
  • 37 deaths were reported in 22 facilities in the state;
  • Illness was the leading cause of death of people in jail or prison;
  • 54.1% were convicted and serving a sentence;
  • 29.7% were not convicted of a crime

The oldest person to die was 85 and the youngest was 22.

State law mandates that all law enforcement agencies in the state report any law enforcement-related death of a person in custody.

To read the full 2020 report as well as previous years, go to www.tn.gov/tbi/divisions/cjis-division/recent-publications.html or bit.ly/2Qb1Hyo.