McMinnville native Mark Gwyn was reappointed by Gov. Bill Haslam on Monday to his third term as director of the TBI.
Gwyn, 53, has led Tennessee’s top law enforcement agency for the past 12 years and becomes the first three-term director in the agency’s history. Directors are appointed to six-year terms.
“I contemplated retiring, but there are some things we’ve started that I want to see through to completion,” said Gwyn on Tuesday in an interview with the Standard.
There are a number of crime issues facing the state, one of the most highly publicized of which is officer-related shootings. Gwyn says the TBI normally investigates these cases as a neutral third party so a conflict is not perceived.
“These types of cases are rising. It’s the current climate of things,” said Gwyn. “I think the TBI has worked 38 cases to date all across the state and that number is only going to rise because officers’ use of force is not going to go away.”
When asked if police officers wearing body cameras is a possible deterrent to the use of deadly force, Gwyn says that has a place, but it also has limitations.
“There are a lot of issues regarding privacy with body cameras,” said Gwyn. “For example, we wouldn’t want the officer to film everything like when they have to go into someone’s home. There’s also the issue of storage. To store video taken from body cameras would require a tremendous amount of data and there would be a cost to that. But I do think there’s a place for body cameras as another tool we can use.”
Gwyn says one key mission of the TBI is staying on top of crimes that are trending. He says this is a constant challenge.
“Five years ago, no one would have guessed human trafficking and fentanyl would be two of the major issues facing this state, but they are,” said Gwyn.
Gwyn says fentanyl is a pain killer 50 times as potent as heroin that can be deadly. He said it can be found in counterfeit prescription drugs that are bought on the street. He also said heroin can be laced with fentanyl.
“We had 15 fentanyl overdoses in one day in Rutherford County,” said Gwyn.
The state’s energy toward reducing the meth epidemic has been effective, Gwyn said, and it’s resulted in a 50 percent reduction in meth labs seized. The bad news is while meth use has decreased, heroin use has soared and Gwyn says it is more dangerous than meth.
Gwyn began his law enforcement career on the streets of McMinnville as a patrolman. He got his start with McMinnville Police Department in 1985.
“I’m proud of McMinnville and it will always be my home,” said Gwyn.
After three years there, Gwyn joined the TBI as a special agent and spent eight years investigating some of the state’s most high-profile crimes. Gwyn’s hard-nosed reputation earned him a promotion to TBI administration in 1996, and later TBI assistant director in charge of the Forensic Services Division in 2001. In that capacity, he supervised the state’s three crime labs.
He was first appointed TBI director in 2004 by then-Gov. Phil Bredesen. He was reappointed by Bredesen in 2010, and reappointed again by Haslam on Monday.
Said Haslam, “Mark has dedicated his career to making Tennessee safer and his ambitious efforts have helped the TBI become a proactive law enforcement agency. As part of the Public Safety Subcabinet, Mark has helped lead the fight against some of the most serious crimes in our state, including human trafficking, meth production and gang violence and will continue those efforts to further protect our communities.”
Gwyn is a graduate of the FBI’s Law Enforcement Executive Development Seminar and the FBI National Academy. He has completed law enforcement and leadership training at the FBI’s National Executive Institute, Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and the FBI’s Leadership in Counter-Terrorism Program.
Gwyn received extensive terrorism training conducted in Israel by the Israeli National Police while attending the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange and in 2015 graduated from the inaugural Tennessee Law Enforcement Command College. He serves as the president of the board of directors of the Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies and sits on the boards of several law enforcement-related organizations.
“I am both humbled and honored to continue leading the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and appreciate Gov. Haslam’s confidence in my ability to advance our agency’s mission,” said Gwyn. “I’ll continue to do everything possible to work with his administration and the men and women of our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners to fight crime and improve public safety in Tennessee.”