Community Says Police Trust At Stake

(Memphis)  A big part of the police department’s troubles center around the public’s lack of trust in the department, according to community leaders.  They weigh in on what the police director needs to do about it.

Dir. Toney Armstrong hired 3 consultants a few weeks ago to look at his department’s disciplinary practices and other procedures. They met for the first time, yesterday. News Channel 3 wanted to know if this is enough to help build trust in a department that has seen its share of troubles this year.

“That’s why we’re having this second forum on police and community relations,” said Rev. Dwight Montgomery, SCLC.

 Rev. Dwight Montgomery heads the local Southern Christian Leadership Conference. That group along with Rainbow Push plans a second forum to talk about police relations at the end of the month. Mayor AC Wharton agreed to be there.  

“Let me tell you something I know because we work with gang members. You have police officers who go out into the neighborhood cutting deals themselves, you know, with drugs and all kinds of things,” said Montgomery.

Montgomery says the punishment for officers caught doing wrong is often temporary and too many get their jobs back. 

“Everybody has a right to due process but certain actions of police officers are unacceptable and are not in the best interest of the community,” said Montgomery.

This year police arrested or suspended at least 26 of their own. They were paid to protect you some are charged with breaking the law. Charges range from prescription drug abuse to sexual assault.

There are also officers like Alex Beard and Terrance Shaw. Both killed people. Both spent the past few months getting paid for not working while investigators try to figure out if they did anything wrong.

“The public wants to know that the police department is treating their own the same way they’re treating regular citizens,” said Otis Sanford, News Channel 3 Commentator.

Sanford says the director may have some explaining to do putting some of these officers back on the job. Sanford says it’s a matter of perception.

“The one thing that public is a little concerned about is the police officers get a little bit of special treatment  when it comes to them being involved in infractions and even crimes, as opposed to ordinary citizens. So, he has to address that,” said Sanford.

Sanford says Armstrong’s recent hiring of 3 consultants to look at MPD disciplinary procedures and policies is a step in the right direction.

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