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Management of Personnel Records

Reference Number: MTAS-883
Reviewed Date: 12/21/2022

Some Tennessee cities maintain their personnel records in separate locations and by untrained personnel. Records are often maintained in each department where employees may have assess and be free to look at any and all of the information contained in the files, including Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, library cards, personally identifying information of police officers, health-related matters, and other such information that is protected by federal and/or state laws. Employees may review records of other employees and remove from the files information about reprimands, suspensions, demotions, and the like.

MTAS recommends that every city in Tennessee maintain its personnel records in a central location and that such records be under the custodianship of a trained employee, or employees, depending on the size of the city. The custodian should know what records are public and what records are private under state and federal laws. The custodian should know that personnel records are owned by the city and not the employee. It should never be permissible for an employee, or anyone else, to take a personnel file out of the records office, or to remove any document from the personnel records.

MTAS also recommends that the custodian of the records maintain a duplicate file for public and employee access that does not include private protected information. T.C.A. § 10-7-503 requires that certain confidential information be redacted before the record is inspected. Failure to comply with this requirement could create a cause of action against the municipality. Additional information about confidential records can be found under confidential records.

Legislation in Tennessee requires that the chief of police make the decision to release, or not release, information in a police officer’s personnel file. If the personnel records are not disclosed, the chief must explain in writing the reason for refusing to release the information and then release the redacted file. If the personnel records are to be disclosed, the chief must first notify the officer whose files have been requested and give that officer an opportunity to oppose the release. The recorder or other records custodian should notify the chief that a request for an officer’s personnel records has been made and then ask the chief to make the determination as to what should or should not be released. Additional information about the Police Chief's responsibilities can be found under Law Enforcement Officer's Records.