Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner Jr. (Photo: Shirley Jackson/TSD Archives)

Updates on technology, recruiting, dealing with COVID-19 and use of force were elements of a “State of the Sheriff’s Department” presentation Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner Jr. shared at the Frayser Exchange Club meeting this week.

The Thursday afternoon virtual collection of participants included Frayser community activists, pastors, an elected official, a MATA representative and another Exchange Club advocate from middle Tennessee.

Bonner outlined the department’s new website.

“We wanted to get a more high-tech operation,” Bonner said. “It has a new look. You can go on and look up warrants, see who is in jail, apply for a job and find the answers to just about any question you have. …

“We wanted to be technologically advanced and as transparent as possible. We’re on Twitter now, and we have a phone app, too.”

While noting that the Sheriff’s Department had received Triple Crown status from the National Sheriff’s Association, Bonner also pointed out a growth goal regarding recruiting.

“Of our correctional officers, 98 percent are black. In our recruiting for deputy sheriffs, only 15 percent are female. We are working on getting those numbers up.”

Bonner said some community programs have been halted with the onset of COVID-19, particularly lamenting those involving officer interaction with students at school, such as the school resource officers program and bully prevention.

Detailing that a correctional officer had died from COVID-19, Bonner referenced efforts to keep COVID-19 infections at bay among deputies, correctional officers and county inmates.

During a Q&A segment, Frayser Exchange Club President Shelley Rice asked, “Am I to understand that your department had 573,000 contacts with the public, and out of that number, there were only six complaints?”

“That is correct,” Bonner answered. “We try to get it right every time, but sometimes, things go wrong.”

Bonner credited captains and other members of his staff and also talked about the ongoing training of officers in de-escalation.

“From verbal command to deadly force, our officers are trained in the perception of what is reasonable, to exhaust all means before pulling the trigger on that weapon,” Bonner said.

In 2019, there were 16,500 arrests, including 82 that involved use of force.

“We always want to do better,” said Bonner. “I am proud to say that with the ‘8 Can’t Wait’ (police-reform) initiative, we were already doing everything – ban on chokeholds, ban on shooting at moving cars, warning before firing the weapon. Everything except the duty to intervene; we had to train our officers to stop the excessive force of others.”

Bonner praised active Neighborhood Watch programs as some of the most effective crime prevention measures in the Frayser community and throughout the county.