The top law enforcement official in any jurisdiction is the attorney general. In Knox County for the past eight years, that’s been Charme Allen, the first woman to hold this post here. Allen is focused, intense and smart. Warm and fuzzy? Not so much.
Allen is no Carry A. Nation, but on June 2, 2022, she shut down The Ball strip club and the attached Jolly’s Sports Bar for public nuisance. There was no report of hatchet wielding.
When state courts reopened in mid-April 2021, Allen’s prosecutors had cases ready for trial. The Major Crimes and Career Criminal/Gang Units pushed 29 cases to trial (out of 58 total), including 15 homicide and 5 attempted homicide cases. The 2021 report is here.
Allen graduated from UT College of Law in 1990 and quickly went to work in the Knox County Attorney General’s Office. She worked under Republican Ed Dossett, Democrat Randy Nichols and was elected in 2014.
At her first campaign kickoff, I met her two sons. So, how/what are they doing?
“The older one is 24 and attending LMU law school,” she said, “And the younger one is a senior at UT, majoring in criminal justice. So, yes, I’m still paying out the nose.”
Effects of Covid-19
Allen set out to reduce drug-overdose deaths and saw the number decline in 2019. But the numbers for 2020 and 2021 are worse than ever. Why?
“The things we were doing were working, but the stress and trauma from Covid-19” led to more drug usage, she said. Child abuse cases increased as well. And Allen said there could be future problems that we don’t yet see.
What about the special courts – Recovery (previously called Drug Court), Veterans Court and the soon-to-be Mental Health Court.
Allen is all-in.
She says the courts keep people involved with the judicial system longer. That means weekly accountability and time to get community support systems involved. So, she’s on the committee to create a Mental Health Court and points to things already happening.
“I appointed one assistant DA to shepherd these cases (through various courts). And we created the BHUCC” (Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center on Ball Camp Pike). It’s a short-term residential facility operated by McNabb Center.
These initiatives tie to Allen’s slogan: Tough on Crime; Smart on Prevention.
A final initiative that might tilt toward the warm and fuzzy. On World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (June 15), Allen and members of her office packed and served meals with Mobile Meals Kitchen. The lawyers discussed ways to protect older people and, hopefully, formed alliances with folks from Mobile Meals to identify and report elder abuse.
Tom King is taking a break but hopefully will return next Monday with Our Town Heroes.