The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Tennessee County Municipal Advisory Service

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Miscellaneous Police Operations

Reference Number: MTAS-401
Tennessee Code Annotated
Reviewed Date: December 13, 2016
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Suppression of Nuisances
Offenses specifically designated "nuisances" by statute and several other general offenses, including lewdness, gambling, prostitution, selling or exhibiting obscene material, drunkenness, and breach of the peace, are subject to abatement in a chancery, circuit, or criminal court. The court may order any personal property, money, or stock used in connection with such activities to be sold at public auction, and the proceeds are to be shared equally by the state general fund and the general fund of the municipality whose officers made the seizure. T.C.A. §§ 29-3-101–111.

Sexual Offender Registration
Certain sexual offenders are required to register within 48 hours of a change of status and are subject to monitoring. They must report periodically to update information in law enforcement files. T.C.A. §§ 40-39-201, et seq.

The public has access to TBI records containing sexual offender information if the offenses were committed on or after July 1, 1997. The TBI also must place the information on the Internet. T.C.A. § 40-39-106.

Public Drunkenness
Municipalities may not enact ordinances prohibiting public drunkenness. This offense is now punished exclusively under state law. T.C.A. § 33-8-510.

Reports to Police
All hospitals, clinics, sanitariums, doctors, physicians, surgeons, nurses, pharmacists, undertakers, embalmers, or other persons called upon to tender aid are required to report to a police chief any person in or brought into a city who is "suffering from any wound or other injury inflicted by means of a knife, pistol, gun, or other deadly weapon, or by other means of violence, or suffering from the effects of poison or suffocation". T.C.A. § 38-1-101.

Gun Control Prohibited
State law provides that "no city, county, or urban-county government shall occupy any part of the field of regulation of the transfer, ownership, possession, or transportation of firearms, ammunition, or components of firearms or combinations thereof." However, this law does not affect the validity of any ordinance or resolution enacted before April 8, 1986. This section also prohibits municipalities from bringing lawsuits against gun manufacturers based upon the lawful design, manufacturing, marketing, and sale of handguns to the public.  T.C.A. § 39-17-1314. Another statute prohibits the state or political subdivisions from prohibiting the possession, transfer, transport, carrying, storage, dispensing or use of firearms during a state of emergency. T.C.A. § 58-2-107.

Emergency Vehicle Lights
All vehicles except law enforcement vehicles are prohibited from having flashing blue lights or flashing blue lights in combination with flashing red lights. Vehicles operated by reserve or auxiliary police officers may, with the permission of the police chief, also use blue flashing lights or blue flashing lights in combination with red flashing lights.  T.C.A. § 55-9-414.

Workhouse
Any municipality is empowered to maintain a "workhouse or house of correction".  T.C.A. § 41-3-101. Few, if any, municipalities use this authority. Municipalities also may make agreements with other municipalities and counties to form regional jail authorities. T.C.A. §§ 41-12-101, et seq.

Using an Interpreter to Communicate with a Hearing Impaired Child in Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Cases
Law enforcement officers are required to use an interpreter trained in sign language, instead of a child’s family member, when the officer is investigating an alleged domestic abuse or child abuse case that may have involved or occurred in the presence of a hearing-impaired child. Authorizes the interpreter to interpret from a remote location or live, if necessary. Requires all law enforcement agencies to maintain a list of interpreters developed by the Tennessee Council for the Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing.

Racial Profiling Prevention Policy 
On or before January 1, 2016, every law enforcement agency in Tennessee is required to have adopted a written policy that prohibits racial profiling by agency employees. 

Enforcement of City Ordinances by Sheriffs
Subject to an agreement among the municipality, the sheriff, the county’s general sessions court, and the county’s governing body, it is the sheriff’s duty to enforce a city’s ordinances if by ordinance the city declares this policy and furnishes certified copies of its ordinances to the sheriff and the county’s general sessions court. Furthermore, the city must agree that it will pay enforcement costs not covered by court costs collected under its ordinances. "Civil penalties" are to be paid to the city, as distinguished from "court costs". T.C.A. § 8-8-201(34), T.C.A. § 12-9-104, T.C.A. § 16-15-501(b)(1).

Charitable Solicitations
Groups that solicit funds to benefit public safety personnel must register with the secretary of state as "charitable organizations". T.C.A. § 48-101-501(1). Volunteer fire departments, rescue squads, and local civil defense organizations are exempt from this requirement.  T.C.A. § 48-101-502(a)(3).

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