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September 10, 2020

Governor Bill Lee:

Good afternoon. Thank you for joining us for our weekly press briefing. Today, we have a special focus because 60 days ago, we promised that we would undertake definitive action for law enforcement reform, addressing policies that impact policing. It's important to remember that this work that we'll talk about today is a first step and an ongoing process of continuous improvement for law enforcement across Tennessee. We will continue these efforts by supporting law enforcement, with the training and the resources they need to appropriately police and protect and serve, the citizens of Tennessee. The results have been a coordinated effort, like not undertaken in our state before with regard to law enforcement. And we think that it can even nationally, provide a template for how communities can tackle meaningful reform and response to president Trump's outline in his executive order on safe policing for safe communities.

Governor Bill Lee:

Our administration, as you'll see today has worked directly with police, with sheriffs, with legislators, with local leaders to improve our approach so that Tennessee's law enforcement is well-equipped to enforce the law, remembering the rights of individuals, dignity and humanity at the forefront of policing. Through this task force, we've set aside funds to provide scholarships for 90 cadets at the Tennessee law enforcement training Academy. And I'm pleased offer this support so that communities with tight budgets will not have a hindrance to their ability to have well-trained law enforcement all across our state. Approaches that would result in upheaval or defunding are not the right approach that we believe to addressing the real reforms that are necessary. We support law enforcement of Tennessee and Tennessee, and I have the utmost respect for the men and women who serve and put their lives on the line every day.

Governor Bill Lee:

Rather, we've chosen what we believe is a substantive and serious approach that shows that our criminal justice system, isn't afraid to take a hard look at themselves and at their day to day operations with regard to how they serve Tennesseans and to provide Liberty and justice for every Tennesseean and through law enforcement. But before I turn it over to our guests to speak, and we have a number of them that were members of this task force, I want to make a comment about something that I did earlier today.

Governor Bill Lee:

Commissioner Long and I were part of a ceremony, the three stars of Tennessee ceremony that recognize law enforcement officials who have lost their lives or sustained life altering injuries as a result of their service in the line of duty. It was a moving ceremony as the families of those law enforcement officials, who've lost their lives were they're. It served for me, not only an opportunity to honor those individuals and their families but to remember the important role that law enforcement plays in our community and the fact that these men and women do in fact, put their lives on the line every day. And we saw examples of that today with loss of life, from some of our own here in the state of Tennessee. And I was proud to be with those families this morning.

Governor Bill Lee:

I've invited a series of guests today to discuss what we've accomplished in the last 60 days, and to talk about what we want to do going forward. There have been updates to use of force policies, to duty, to intervene policies, updates with regard to training specifically deescalation techniques, training around mental health, interaction with public assembly. So we will be talking about all of those today with our speakers. Commerce and Insurance commissioner, Hodgen Mainda, who headed up this task force, TBI director, David Rausch, Department of Safety and Homeland Security, commissioner and former sheriff Jeff Long, Franklin police chief Deb Faulkner, and Shelby County sheriff Floyd Bonner will be joining us today. Let's start with an overview from commissioner Mainda.

Hodgen Mainda:

Thank you, governor. Hodgen Mainda here, commissioner Tennessee, Department of Commerce and Insurance. Governor Lee, thank you for your leadership on these very important issues, convening this partnership and asking us to enhance the already exemplary work of Tennessee law enforcement. On the task force, we were charged with reviewing and enhancing training for state and local law enforcement officers through The Tennessee Law Enforcement Academy, and Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission, which are both housed in the Department of Commerce and Insurance. Proud to report on the results of the taskforce with updates, we are making to officer training. First, we're addressing updates to initial academy training. Tennessee's law enforcement training academies are already dedicated to important topics like diversity, deescalation, proper use of force, ethics and the public servant role. Our goal was to enhance and improve our training to include the following updates pursuant to the governor's directive.

Hodgen Mainda:

The POST commission will increase the minimum training hours on all Tennessee's 11 training academies from 400 hours to 488 hours. This step formalizes what to leader and other academies across our state are already training at more than the minimum requirement. Academies across the state, will be required to have training of at least 16 hours dedicated to appropriate and relevant topics. Specifically one officer duty to intervene. Two, interaction with public assemblies. Three, proper use of force, and four, emphasizing positive, meaningful interaction between community and officer. Next, we're updating our annual in-service training. Currently, every Tennessee law enforcement officer is required to complete 40 hours of annual in-service training. 11 of those hours are already designated by statute for important topics like operating of firearms, emergency vehicles, child sex abuse, and assisting those with mental health issues. For the next three years, given the governor's directive, POST commission will require officers to complete 10 hours that will focus on one, deescalation and duty to intervene.

Hodgen Mainda:

This empowers and requires the officers to react and intervene if there is unnecessary force being utilized and or someone's rights being violated. Two, officer wellness. It is critically important to support our officers and their mental health and physical wellbeing so that they can serve their communities in a healthy and mutually respectful manner. Three, public assembly and community interaction. This focuses on first amendment rights and proper response to public assemblies. And forth and the last, designated community immersion. This community oriented policing will prioritize positive non-enforcement with the emphasis and intentionality around cross cultural interaction between law enforcement and community members.

Hodgen Mainda:

In closing, we want to ensure that all Tennessee's law enforcement officers continue to receive the best training and standards so that we can respond to the evolving needs of law enforcement and in our communities. We believe the work done by this partnership like the governor said is a great first step. And the enhancements we're making to our training will accomplish this in a very real, meaningful and impactful way. I know that governor Lee and Tennesseans are committed to having the best in the nation law enforcement officers and developing the best practices of law enforcement agencies that above all, uphold the dignity and sanctity of human life. Thank you again, governor for your service, your leadership and dedication to supporting Tennessee's law enforcement officers, for making a real positive change. And for letting me and my team be a part of this process. Thank you, governor.

Governor Bill Lee:

TBI, director, David Rausch.

David Rausch:

Thank you, governor. I had the opportunity to work alongside many of our law enforcement professionals to look at the directive to address the policies on use of force and duty to intervene. The directive was for every agency in the state to review these policies. And when we got that directive there were a group of US law enforcement executives that sat down and talked about what that review should include. The group that we gathered was a great collaborative team of the Department of Safety and Homeland Security, and the Tennessee Bureau Investigation, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police, and The Tennessee Sheriffs’ Association. We work together reviewing standards throughout the country national standards, as well as Tennessee standards. We have the Tennessee law enforcement accreditation program. We looked at their standards.

David Rausch:

We looked at The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies standards. We reviewed one document that became kind of a guiding document. And that was the consensus policy on use of force, which is from the International Association of Chiefs of Police. We use these documents to guide us and direct us in creating a checklist that we then produced. And at that point, we shared with a number of organizations to get input. We shared it with the District Attorneys General Conference and got their insight. We shared it with several leadership organizations and throughout the state with leadership, Tennessee and with the Tennessee association of community leadership. And so they sent it out to their memberships and we got feedback from community leaders on the checklist and the consensus policy.

David Rausch:

Then we took that information, hammered down to a specific checklist that we then did some training on, the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police did virtual training, conducted six sessions where they trained law enforcement executives on what this review entailed and why it was so important. After that training, they then were required to after reviewing their policies to go through the checklist and certify that their policy meets the standards set in the checklist.

David Rausch:

And that certification then was sent to their associations, to the Chief's Association and to the Sheriff's Associations. Those at this point, I can report that those policies that have been reviewed, we have over 90% of law enforcement agencies in the state of Tennessee that have reviewed and certified their review at this point. That is a pretty heavy lift if you think about it. Nearly 400 agencies in this state, many who have not yet certified the reasoning for those are most of those are very small agencies and the reasons is that they have to be run through their commissions or their councils before they get them approved. And so those we're still working with the Chief's Association and the Sheriff's Association continue to work with those organizations, those agencies to get to 100% compliance.

David Rausch:

One of the things we also noticed in this one, is that this is an unprecedented effort. No other state has done this. And we also have been watching closely on the federal level. There are soon to be federal guidelines coming out of the department of justice on these topics. And what we know is that these policies that we have done will meet or exceed the standards that the federal government is about to release. And so that is another strong positive that we are moving in Tennessee in the right direction quicker, quite frankly, than every state in the union. And so it's a very positive thing. Lastly, I'll just say again to thank the collaborative effort, the teamwork that was put into this and it was a voluntary strong effort. Everyone agreed that these were necessary things that needed to take place and that the changes in the policies that needed to take place were appropriate and necessary. Thank you.

Governor Bill Lee:

Thank you. Thank you director. Commissioner Long, you want to come up and make a couple comments?

Jeff Long:

Thank you, governor Lee. And we're honored to stand with you in this group of professionals. As we work to enhance the policies and improve information, sharing, increase our officer training to a career that I've dedicated 47 years to. We're proud of those honorable men and women that have made law enforcement, their profession, and they place their lives on the line for each and every one of us every day in this community. This is the first time in 47 year career that I have governor, that I want to commend you for together a statewide effort to make sure there's a guiding standard policy for all law enforcement across our state. It was truly a collaborative effort by state and local partners. Governor, upon your announcement, I immediately asked the Tennessee Highway Patrol and Homeland Security to conduct a thorough review of their use of force and duty to intervene policies.

Jeff Long:

We're happy to report the department's policies go above and beyond the recommendations for established guidelines set forth by state and national standards. Also, the Tennessee Department of Correction, the Tennessee Department of Environment Conservation, the Alcoholic Beverage Commission, and the Department of Revenue within the state government are also compliant with your order. I want to briefly talk about the National Decertification Index. The NDI, The National Decertification Index, is a national registry administered by the international association of training academies for law enforcement officers certification or license revocation, based upon an action that may be related to that officer's misconduct, or as reported by their participating agency. Those bad actors that cast bad light on our great profession. And why is the information sharing among law enforcement so important? As we have witnessed, each critical policy violation by a police officer has the potential to do lasting damage to individuals, to a community and to an entire nation, every incident erodes police credibility and makes it harder for good officers to do their great job, creating an increasingly dangerous environment for both police and civilians.

Jeff Long:

Adding to the growing frustration since the fact that officer's involved in the use of force fatalities, often have had previous complaints, disciplinary actions, and even firings on their records. The idea that problem officers are still on the job is very concerning to all of us. Sometimes what we call wandering officers move into different departments after being fired or being allowed to resign for misconduct for policy violations. Often, those firings reflect serious misconduct yet many officers managed to escape their past and find new employment. Sometimes their record is not shared with a new department that may be checking to hire them. There is also a financial aspect, sometimes small departments who do not have the financial restraints to cost of training or immediate need to place somebody on the street or more quickly to reach out and get someone who has already been certified as a police officer.

Jeff Long:

As you heard today, the governor has asked for grants to be given, scholarships to be given for these small agencies who cannot afford to hire people normally, and would quickly jump at someone else to hire someone and be able to put them through the proper training that they need. With the plan reform Tennessee will now have the National Decertification Index available to every law enforcement agency to report officers terminated or resigned in lieu of termination. Not only that. And I think one of the most key things is each chief executive officer of that department will now certify the reason that officer is leaving the job or resigning from their position. The reform order by governor Lee will proactively prevent problem officers from being employed in future. This could potentially prevent a great tragedy in our state. Thank you, governor.

Governor Bill Lee:

Thank you sir. Chief Faulkner.

Deb Faulkner:

Good afternoon and thank you, governor Lee. I'm the city of Franklin police chief, but I'm here today representing my fellow police chiefs and over 17,000 police officers in the state of Tennessee. I also represent the members of the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police. And I'm a proud member of the POST commission, I serve as one of the commissioners. We each have a long history of supporting professional law enforcement through quality training, exemplary policies and practices, accreditation, and integrity. The Police Chief's Association is committed to advancing governor Lee's partnership in reform. Police chiefs from across the state of Tennessee, made a commitment along with governor Lee to review our use of force policies, our duty to intervene policies, and to update them based on the recommendations and the checklist provided on behalf of the use of force committee.

Deb Faulkner:

The committee was comprised of representatives from the Department of Safety, the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the Sheriff's Association, and the Tennessee Police Chief's Association. Sample policies were developed to assist every agency, no matter the size that agency. And I'll repeat what director Rausch said, 90% of Tennessee law enforcement agencies have already successfully reviewed and updated their policies. Now I've been a cop a minute, and to get 90% of these guys to do this is a pretty big, remarkable deal. We look forward to continuing to provide quality resources to law enforcement executives statewide. We'll also continue to provide resources and quality training that will focus on use of force, deescalation techniques, positive community interaction, and officer wellness, which is so important during this pandemic and all the other things going on in our world.

Deb Faulkner:

In my career, I've seen a lot of changes in the law enforcement profession. However, there's one constant that never goes away. And that is the criticality of positive community police relations. Police officers have to connect with a community that they serve with both respect and trust as a cornerstone. We all strive to provide quality police services, and we will continue to do that. Governor Lee, you can count on the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police to ensure that law enforcement will serve with pride and professionalism and always, and I mean always have the best interest of Tennesseean as our top priority. It's been my honor to be here today and I thank you very much.

Governor Bill Lee:

Thank you. Sheriff Bonner.

Floyd Bonner:

Good afternoon. First, I would like to thank governor Bill Lee and his staff for the privilege to participate on the Tennessee law enforcement reform task force. Additionally, I would like to think and extend my appreciation to all the task force members who collaborated, and arrived at a consensus on meaningful change for use of force and duty to intervene policies for law enforcement agencies across the great state of Tennessee. As of today, 87% of sheriffs have attested to the policies. This is just a beginning of an ongoing process. And law enforcement will continue to look for ways for improvement. The taskforce top priority during the development of recommendations was to ensure that every Tennessean's rights to dignity and humanity was being protected and preserve.

Floyd Bonner:

The diverse perspective and constructive dialogue we shared as task force members should serve as a model for the types of conversation that should occur across the state, as well as the nation. I believe the recommendations will guarantee that all Tennesseans and visitors will have a similar experience when interacting with law enforcement in the state of Tennessee. It is also my belief that Tennessee law enforcement agencies will find the work of the task force to be valuable, and supportive of their overall mission to protect and serve their communities. As sheriff or the largest sheriff's office in the state of Tennessee, I found the recommendations of the task force to be beneficial to my agency as we review our policies and practices. Thank you again, governor Lee, for your leadership, your commitment to moving Tennessee law enforcement forward. I am fully committed to assist you and your staff on future law enforcement reform. Thank you.

Governor Bill Lee:

Thanks each one of you for participating today to show the strong approach that we've taken across the state in multiple agencies, but the people that you represent, the organizations you represent and the citizens that you represent are grateful for your work. As I said before, this is the first step and, we will implement an ongoing process of continuous improvement for our state to make sure that our citizens and their interaction with law enforcement is one that that does protect in fact, their rights and their dignities and recognizing humanity at the forefront of policing in Tennessee. I'm sure there'll be a lot of questions. So why don't we get to that? We also have on board our Department of Education, commissioner, Penny Schwinn, Dr. John Dunn from Department of Health, members of our unified command group, including Patrick Sheehan from TEMA, and we'll get right to questions.

Brett:

Good afternoon, governor. This week, audio recordings released by veteran journalist, Bob Woodward exposed the president, Donald Trump had said in February and March, that coronavirus was alarmingly deadly, very contagious, worse than the flu and a threat to children. "I always wanted to play it down." He said. In the weeks following this statement, Trump told the American public that the virus was under control, similar to the flu, and that children were almost immune. The president admitted to misleading the public and minimizing the worst disease threat in a lifetime. This is coming from the defacto leader of your political party, and the man who is supposed to be your partner in combating this pandemic. How do you reconcile this dishonesty? Do you feel misled or betrayed?

Governor Bill Lee:

I can only speak to our approach in our state to this pandemic, the seriousness with which we've taken. I can speak to the relationship with the federal government, multiple agencies across federal government throughout this pandemic, their support of the efforts that we were making, their ability to answer questions for us. But we have approached this with all due seriousness and we have worked with the federal government, TEMA, HHS, CMS, multiple agencies across the federal government to assist in our approach and that support and that effort and that working together has been one that has been incredibly helpful for us. They have visited here, we have visited there. So I can only comment on our approach and on the federal government's response to us, which we believe has been good.

Brett:

Why can't you comment on what the president said?

Governor Bill Lee:

Well, I haven't read that report myself.

Brett:

Would you like to hear the recording? I have it right here.

Governor Bill Lee:

I would not. I will respond to you about what we have done in the State of Tennessee and our interaction with federal government.

Brett:

One more time, the president of the United States said that he downplayed-

Governor Bill Lee:

That's right.

Brett:

A pandemic that has killed 190,000 Americans and almost 2000 Tennesseans. And you don't want to talk about that?

Governor Bill Lee:

We talk about it every day. We talk about the seriousness of COVID-19 and Tennessee, and what our response is going to be.

Speaker 1:

Governor, will you just tell me what you want to see come out of all of these new changes that you have created, and these guys have created for the state?

Governor Bill Lee:

Yeah. I think what we want to see is an ongoing, committed, serious substantive effort to make sure that law enforcement in this state protects and serves in the way that they should, in a way that interacts with the public so that we don't have circumstances and instances like we've seen across the country, that question use of force and duty to intervene, deescalation, interaction with public assembly. Those are the things that we want to make sure are done well professionally, appropriately in our state. That's what we want the outcome to be.

Speaker 2:

Good afternoon. Director Rausch, mentioned that Tennessee's new standards will meet or exceed the new standards that are about to be released by the DOJ. Has our state been working with the Department of Justice on the new standards?

Governor Bill Lee:

Director Rausch, you want to comment on the interaction we've had with Department of Justice?

David Rausch:

So as you're aware, I work on the president's commission on law enforcement and the administration of justice. And that is led by the Department of Justice. And so a lot of these conversations have been going on with that work group. And additionally to that, we've been working very closely with the Attorney General's office on the executive order that the president signed that directs the Attorney General to certify agencies throughout the country on this very topic. And so we've been working very closely with the AG's office and with the commission. And so that's how we're aware, obviously a little bit of an insight or understanding of what's coming. But that's how we're aware of what the standards are that they're getting ready to put in place.

Speaker 3:

Thank you, governor.

Governor Bill Lee:

Yes, sir.

Speaker 3:

Playing off of Brett's question. The president admitted that he downplayed this, did that affect how you and your team responded to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Governor Bill Lee:

We responded with all seriousness to the COVID-19 pandemic. We understand this is a global pandemic that threatens the lives of Tennesseans and we responded as a result of that as we have throughout the pandemic.

Speaker 3:

But did you have any insight, you went to The White House, did you have any insight into whether the virus was more dangerous than the president had said early on and even later on?

Governor Bill Lee:

Well, we just watched what was happening around the world and it was evident around the world that we had a global pandemic that was going to cost lives. And our goal in this state was to mitigate the spread of that pandemic, of that virus and to minimize the loss of life iN Tennessee.

Speaker 3:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). And one more question, I know one of the Republican legislators has talked about potentially having a no confidence vote in the education commissioner. And I just wanted to get your thoughts on that. I mean, do you have confidence in the education commissioner? Some of, even the Republican lawmakers feel she's made several missteps.

Governor Bill Lee:

Opening schools in the midst of a pandemic is one of the greatest challenges that any state has faced. Our state's been one of the first to do it and we've done it effectively I believe. We've worked really hard to protect the lives of kids, and the lives of teachers and the health of those. But we also worked really hard knowing that children in a classroom will provide the best outcomes. Our commissioner, the entire department of education has worked tirelessly to make that happen. I'm very pleased with where we are in opening up our schools. And that's the number one job right now that commissioner and of that department, and I'm pleased with the efforts so far.

Speaker 3:

So with a no confidence vote carry any weight with you whatsoever?

Governor Bill Lee:

I am very pleased with the work that our commissioner has done so far.

Speaker 3:

Okay.

Speaker 4:

Thanks governor, for talking with us today, I have a question about, about the task force. You talked about how there's going to be some type of report form in policing and use of force, but I didn't hear implicit bias, and we know that black people are five times likely to be arrested as their white counterpart. We have the same numbers or similar numbers with Hispanics. How is your administration addressing implicit bias in law enforcement and policing?

Governor Bill Lee:

I'll say broadly that when we address policies with respect to human dignity, that includes every single Tennessean, regardless of who that Tennessean is. And there were also references made to community interaction to cross cultural training, to understanding the citizens that our law enforcement serves. I think those approaches are the way that we will protect the dignity and rights and protect the lives of every one of our citizens, regardless of who they are. We could get more common about that, but I think the approach to our community interaction, is how we will best meet the very specific concerns you're addressing.

Speaker 4:

Maybe we would like more comment just because I'm having a hard time understanding. I understand that understanding the community is one thing, but then there's another thing about, if a police officer is going to have an interaction with a black person, or a Latino, they might have this preconception and these ideas and prejudices in their head, and they might act on that.

Governor Bill Lee:

Yeah. I think that's what cross cultural community training is about. Would director Rausch, would you like, or commissioner? I think that's what that is about. Interacting with the people that you serve, regardless of who they are understanding, those differences that you're talking about specifically across cultural training, we'll accomplish that, but you can add to it if you like.

David Rausch:

Thank you for that question. I will back up a little bit and talk a little bit about the composition of the task force. We could have approached this strictly with the agencies and departments within state government, and I'm thankful to the governor for allowing us to engage with our stakeholders, to engage with community leaders and the departments and agencies that are that collaborated on this. We were well-represented and it was a diverse and very inclusive task force. I will say, in addition to the governor's comment about that cross-cultural intentionality on community immersion through the task force, there was a lot of discussion about officer wellness. And under that officer wellness training category and, or theme, we are going to address one of your points about that implicit bias.

Speaker 4:

Commissioner, what you're talking about how community leaders were also included. Can you talk a little bit about which community leaders were included? Like what type of people besides law enforcement agencies and maybe state representatives?

Hodgen Mainda:

[inaudible] Yes, the actual task force is up on our website of the Department of Commerce and Insurance's website. I believe either the second or third page does have the list of the leaders, but we did have a community leader from West Tennessee, Jackson. And we also did have a community leader from Southeast Chattanooga who's president CEO of a nonprofit there. In addition to that, we had representatives from the Sheriff's Association, from the Chief's Association, several. Again, and we wanted to make sure that all grand divisions were represented. We also wanted to make sure that rural and urban were also represented. In addition, my colleagues commissioner Long, and director Rausch and representatives from the governor's office as well. Thank you, governor.

Speaker 5:

Thank you, governor. My question is for you and Dr. Schwinn. Mayor Ogles in Murray County is calling for you to replace Dr. Schwinn because he feels like that she doesn't represent the values. What is your stance on that? And Dr. Schwinn, if you wanted to respond as well.

Governor Bill Lee:

Yeah. Our Department of Education is in my view doing a tremendous work to make sure that our kids needs are being met both academically as well as the other multiple needs that are met through mental health services and nutrition services, children with disabilities, those needs are met oftentimes in schools. The most important thing that we can do is meet the academic needs of our children. And we rely on parents to provide the, the choice that we want to provide parents the choice for their kids to be in person or online, but to have those needs met. Our department of education, our commissioner of education is solely committed to that. And the work of that department has been one that I'm very pleased with so far.

Speaker 5:

My second question has to do with mask mandates that are expiring across the state in different counties. Are you concerned about what that could mean for businesses and schools as life continues on?

Governor Bill Lee:

I think our approach to mass in the state has been very effective. We, we see that the mitigation efforts are working. We're cautiously optimistic, as we said about the numbers giving local authority has allowed for... we believe the adherence to that in a greater way then could be done otherwise. The White House coronavirus task force agreed that our approach there was appropriate and right. Every Tennessean should wear a mask when they cannot social distance. When they're in a position that they do not believe will provide safety for them individually. We will not stop saying the simple things are going to continue to move our curve in the right direction, washing your hands, stand apart, wearing a mask, staying home when you're sick. We see that happening. I'm proud of the way Tennesseans has done that. And I'm pleased so far with the results that we're seeing. Certainly in the last few weeks, we hope that continues. We believe it will.

Speaker 5:

With the numbers starting to increase in more rural communities. Are you encouraging, I guess, those counties to create their own mask mandates?

Governor Bill Lee:

Well, we've talked to County mayors and every County about how it is that they can implement a number of policies across their counties to make sure that their citizens are safe and that we mitigate the spread. And in fact, our spread in rural counties is plateaued and on whole is diminishing in our rural communities as well. So we have spots around the state where that's not true, but for the most part, it is true. So we continue to be encouraged, but we continue to encourage, I do with regular phone calls myself personally, with groups of County mayors to talk about their approach and their counties. Our unified command group goes to multiple counties every week to meet with leaders in those counties and talk about how we can be supportive of their efforts.

Speaker 5:

Thank you.

Speaker 6:

Hi, governor. So I was first my first question regards, why the use of CARE's money to fund the 90 scholarships? I mean, that money is for coronavirus relief and does offset the cost, how does that work?

Governor Bill Lee:

So the federal government's given us a broad flexibility about how it is that we can use dollars. Recognizing that law enforcement has been called upon in unusual ways to respond even in COVID-19, has had first responders in different ways, healthcare workers in different ways that brought flexibility by the federal government allows us to use those funds in that way.

Speaker 6:

So, I mean, was there any way of looking at, I know that your administration is also looking at rainy day funds and all the departments. Was there any discussion of other ways to fund these 90 scholarships?

Governor Bill Lee:

Well, we look at funding for every effort that were taken. We looked at what we believe is the best way to fund it. That would not impact future operations of the state, specifically with regard to CARE's funding. That CARE's funding is to be used in the short term and not to create long-term costs to the state, but every effort we take, we look at what we believe is the best funding stream for that.

Speaker 6:

My next question is regarding the policies and the checklist that the review that was done in the 90% of the agencies say that they have certified that they aligned with the checklist. So I guess I'm confused about, did any agencies change their policies to align with the checklist?

Governor Bill Lee:

Commissioner, I'll let you... Yeah, there you go. Director, you can address that.

Governor Bill Lee:

Yeah. So I can speak for my agency, but I can also speak for a number of others. So the sample policy as well, that came from the Tennessee Association Chiefs of Police there Tennessee law enforcement accreditation program, we actually had to change the sample policy because there were some additional pieces that needed to be stated in the policy that before were typically understood, but they needed to be stated. And so a lot of policies, I can tell you, TBIs policy, we changed. We had to go in and make adjustments to our policy based on the checklist.

Speaker 6:

Was it the majority of agencies had changed their policies or can you [inaudible].

David Rausch:

Yeah, I would say quite frankly, just from my experiences absolutely. My previous agency that I worked with, I know they had to go in and change theirs. And so I'm sure that the vast majority of agencies had to do changes and updates based on the checklist.

Speaker 6:

Thank you.

David Rausch:

Yes.

Speaker 7:

Hi, governor.

Governor Bill Lee:

Hi, [inaudible].

Speaker 7:

I have four specific questions regarding contracting.

Governor Bill Lee:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Speaker 7:

Schools are open, businesses are open, and yet your administration continues to rely routinely on emergency, no bid spending. Do you foresee that continuing indefinitely?

Governor Bill Lee:

No. I don't think that will continue indefinitely, but our procurement process through this pandemic has been certainly unusual. When the pandemic began we had a global crisis with a global supply chain challenge, States were competing for supplies. The traditional procurement model as you know, takes a significant amount of time to do requests for proposals and multiple beds. And at the same time, we were faced with the loss of life. People were dying every day and that situation, and that circumstance created the need for rapid procurement that wouldn't allow for the traditional process. But that is in the midst of a state of emergency, which continues to this day and that will continue to happen during a state of emergency. But it's not the traditional procurement processes of the state.

Speaker 7:

Well, and just to follow up on that quickly, I've seen at least one governor who says it's time to get back to normal with procurement policies. Why not give such an order yourself, sir?

Governor Bill Lee:

Well, we'll review those when we make a decision about states of emergency and where we believe we are in this pandemic, we continue to lose lives in Tennessee, and we continue to have urgency around procurement. It's one of the reasons that the federal government has given flexibility around that funding with regard to procurement procedures and policies, because they do recognize the emergency nature of it.

Speaker 7:

And then the second question is, and it's probably more of a yes or no question. Did you or George McWhorter, or did any other member of your administration have a prior relationship with Renfro Corporation before the sock mask contractors-

Governor Bill Lee:

I'm not familiar with any relationships.

Speaker 7:

Okay. And then what can you say about the deal with representative Jerry Sexton? Because I've not been able to get answers about number one, whether you personally approve that deal, why is it put on hold? Why did he deliver the gowns and not get paid?

Governor Bill Lee:

Yeah. We've had a lot of procurement. We've had a lot of procurement interactions with a number of organizations and I don't know the details of every, there were hundreds and I don't know the details of all of those, so I can't address that.

Speaker 7:

Did you personally approve doing a deal with the state lawmaker?

Governor Bill Lee:

I did not approve any procurement, personal procurement in this process. That was through the process of those who procured supplies for the state.

Speaker 7:

And then the last question is, there's a recent lawsuit that says one of the PPE vendors was paying someone commissions in conjunction with its state contract. Do you know anything about that? And specifically, did you ever talk with Robert Swope about his interest in doing business with the state?

Governor Bill Lee:

If that lawsuit is between two companies, the state's not involved in that. So I can't speak to litigation that doesn't involve the state.

Speaker 7:

And did you ever talk to Robert Swope about his interest in doing business with the state?

Governor Bill Lee:

No. Nothing really about that litigation?

Speaker 7:

No. I'm not asking about the litigation.

Governor Bill Lee:

Yeah. I know nothing about it, or know anyone that's involved with it.

Speaker 7:

Okay. Okay. I'm sorry. You may be misunderstanding my question this-

Governor Bill Lee:

No, sir. I'm not. I know nothing about that, or anyone involved with it. And you may be asking about a person that's involved in that legislation or I mean in that litigation. And I have had no interaction with anyone around that litigation.

Speaker 7:

Not about the litigation, yes or no. Did you ever talk to Robert Swope about his interest in doing business with the state?

Governor Bill Lee:

I have not.

Speaker 7:

Thank you, sir.

Speaker 8:

Governor, I don't think we've talked about this being the day with the second highest number of deaths from COVID. What does that say about where Tennessee is in its fight in its fight in this pandemic?

Governor Bill Lee:

It says that we have a serious health pandemic that we need to continue to be serious about. We do know that death rates lag. It's a lagging indicator, as you know. And so we believe that that if that is true and as those statistics and case counts go down and hospitalizations continue to go down, then that death rate will go down, but we haven't seen that yet. And we believe that it will, but it's a reminder to us that Tennesseans are losing their lives every day. And we have to continue to be serious about this.

Speaker 9:

All right, governor, that's a time we have today.

Governor Bill Lee:

Thank you. You all, thank you all very much for your attentiveness. Let me just make one other comment. I want to close our time today by remembering three Tennesseans who lost their lives this week. Members of the national guard, airman who tragically lost their lives in a plane accident. Lieutenant Colonel Shelley Healer, captain Jessica Wright, senior master Sergeant Scott Bumpus were public servants who loved their country and they loved their state. And we were proud that they served our state and we grieve with their families and I ask you to join me and Maria and others, as we pray for those families who are dealing with the tragic loss of those who serve every single one of us in Tennessee and tomorrow we'll be flying flags at half staff.

Governor Bill Lee:

In part, in honor, for all who serve and have lost their lives. Tomorrow is the anniversary of 911, 3000 innocent lives for over 400 first responders lost their lives in that tragic day in our country. And we remember them and we honor them. And tomorrow the flags will flat half staff from sunrise to sunset on September 11th. Thank you for being here.