Speaking during a monthly session of the Tennessee Targeted Community Crime Reduction Grant partners, Lawson said the procedural modifications represent a move to make the agency more publicly accountable.
Since assuming the leadership position, Lawson said he has rewritten organization and policy manuals, and updated procedures.
It was established in the late 1980s as a contributory agency with law enforcement agencies from Bradley, Polk, McMinn and Monroe counties contributing personnel to staff the organization.
“We are not a stand-alone law enforcement agency,” Lawson said. “We answer to a board of directors. We have a total of 13 voting board members, including all four county sheriffs as well as a number of police chiefs who are on the board.”
The board of directors meets quarterly at rotating locations in the district. In an effort to maintain a system of checks and balances, Lawson created a communications committee that includes the district attorney and two voting board members. The committee offers consent on decisions affecting the task force.
“It gives you more oversight. I don’t have free reign,” he said. “If I need $3,000 worth of work done at the DTF building, then I have them sign off with me.”
He said there has been negative publicity recently concerning the abuse of credit cards. He has a written logbook to document purchases.
“Everything that’s purchased, you’ve got to give me documentation for it and tell me why we need it,” he said. “Believe me, I’m going to cover the people who are there and myself.”
He added, “You’ve heard a lot of bad things, but we’ve done a lot of good things. Every penny that’s spent, I have to know why it is spent. We try to improve checks and balances with the board. We try to have more oversight. We try to communicate better. Are we perfect? No, but we’re pretty good.”
The Tennessee Targeted Community Crime Reduction Grant is an $800,000 grant funded by the U.S. Department of Justice. The project is aimed at reducing recidivism among alcohol and other drug offenders in East and South Cleveland.