TBI improving alert system after 'mistakes made' in blue alert
Officials with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said they made oversight mistakes in a Blue Alert that was sent to cell phones across the state after a Dickinson County deputy was shot to death.
The Blue Alert—designed to make citizens aware that police are searching for a suspect accused of injuring a law enforcement officer—did not include a location. NBC affiliate WBIR-10News heard from many viewers worried the suspect, Steven Wiggins, was in East Tennessee and posed a threat to the area.
The incorrect phone number was also included as part of that alert, which led to the bureau’s tip line fielding calls seeking general information about the suspect.
The TBI said they’re working to make alerts more comprehensive in the future, in part by adding more space beyond the current 90 character limit.
“We’re working with our partners to try and expand the amount of information that is able to be provided in the cell phone alert,” said TBI Special Agent in Charge Josh Melton. “Something that happened in that alert specifically is that there was an oversight on my part in how that went out.”
TBI fielded questions from the media on a variety of topics on Tuesday as part of a press event at TBI Headquarters in Nashville.
Officials said they see an uptick in methamphetamine and cocaine flowing into the state, with much of the meth coming across the border illegally from Mexico.
“What we’re seeing is an influx of methamphetamine from our good neighbors down in Mexico,” TBI Assistant Director TJ Jordan said.
TBI Special Agent in Charge Thomas Farmer said many of the drugs agents analyze in the crime lab are laced with other substances as well.
“Most of the illicit drugs coming in off the street, you don’t know that they’re going to have in them. We’re seeing cocaine with Fentanyl in it, fake oxycodone, fake everything,” Farmer said.
Jordan said the majority of the cases the bureau analyzes in its drug lab are marijuana-related, closely followed by meth. The bureau is on track to examine about 32,000 drug cases this year.
Marijuana is the most common drug agents analyze—they seized more than $47 million worth of marijuana plants in 2017—followed by Methamphetamine, cocaine powder, heroin and LSD, Jordan said.
He said the top five prescription drugs seized were fentanyl, alprazolam, oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone.
Despite TBI seizures of drugs from the street, Jordan says the state is in the midst of a “mass casualty event” when it comes to drug overdoses.
“The body count is stacking up every day,” he said.
TBI officials also said they have not received any guidance from Governor Haslam’s office about when he will appoint a new permanent TBI director.
Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch is one of three finalists for the role.