Some Call For Reinstating Memphis Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board

(Memphis) They stood before city hall, demanding action.

Three men, who represent 12 community organizations and hundreds of people, want a voice when it comes to complaints against Memphis Police.

“This isn’t about demonizing all police officers. This is about accountability within the police departmentand if the public has a complaint, it is gonna be addressed,” said Brad Watkins of Memphis United, a coalition of 12 community groups.

They say the Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board, set up in 1994 after a controversial police shooting, has in essence been disbanded and has no power, giving people with complaints nowhere to go.

Memphis United met with police and city leaders Monday asking for the action.

Memphis CAO George Little said the Civilian Review Board is very much in existence and in the process of being revamped and getting new appointees.

“I think what you had was a board that got very little business, maybe two or three complaints tops. So those appointments did fall by the wayside, but it wasn’t a conscious decision,” said Little.

“Maybe the reason they have no complaints is they have created a process that is next to impossible for people to engage with,” said Paul Garner, who represents the Homeless Organization for Power and Equality.

Disgruntled citizens say the phone line for the board is one problem, it‘s rarely answered and they say the 90 days it takes to get a response, discourages people.

“It would relax the community and they will know the police is held accountable for their action,” said Jim Brown, who is also with the Homeless Organization for Power and Equality.

Memphis United plans to ask the city council to host community forums with information on the board and the selection process so citizens will have a voice.

“Without civilian oversight of law enforcement it‘s just police reviewing police and we know how well that works. It doesn’t clearly,” said Garner.

The city expects to have more details in a couple of weeks on where the review board stands.

Memphis United plans to present a resolution at the next city council meeting calling for public forums about the Civilian Review Board.

11 comments

  • Tunica kid

    So you want civilians who have an axe to grind to investigate police actions? When a plane crashes citizens do not investigate the plane crashes. There is a review board of pilots,engineers,or some one else in that field. Police Citizens encounters are mostly pleasant. Some Police Citizens encounters are not. Police Officers are HUMAN and yes they do make mistakes. The police officers have extensive background investigations done before they are hired and go through extensive training. Every action they do is always reviewed. Could you do that? If you were a janitor and some one complains that the floor you just mopped was dirty or you did the job poorly. then your boss comes over and tells you that a group of people who never mopped a floor wants you fired?

  • mumbo jumbo

    This is needed all across the nation. The police state has way too much power. They can kill you on a whim and even if it’s on video there are no repercussions. Go to the link on my username for examples.

  • John T. Dwyer

    With very few exceptions have review or oversight boards had any effect on the way a city polices it’s citizens. I think of the Knapp Commission in New York. I think of the situation after the Rodney King beating. I think of a review of Elton Hayes death, or review of police tactics along the Highland strip in the 60’s and 70’s. I also strongly remember the police action in Chicago during the Democratic Convention! I also think of the way Overton Square was cleared during street closings and yes even the way Beale Street is now closed on weekends.

    The reality is that the people who are placed on these boards somehow devolve into infighting, questioning each other on who has “the power”, and eventually posturing on television. You will never see our corporate leaders involved, or any of the money people…until it directly effects them.
    A careful review of the situation will reveal that in a majority of cases, an attorney was retained and a suit at law was filed, to obtain any meaningful and lasting resolution(s). I think of the Jackson shooting in LeMoyne Gardens which brought about the current Crisis Intervention Team of MPD. I think of the current outlaw policy of metal bodied flashlights formerly used by MPD. I think of the policy which now considers it deadly force to strike a suspect in the head with a knight stick. I think of the episode where a deranged off-duty officer attacked a young couple which brought about the negligent retention and early intervention policy. MANY police pursuits with wrecks brought about strong policies to stem the massive payouts for damages. No Civilian Review Board brought about these changes.

    In the end, it is the police officer who is held accountable for the way he or she acted. As it is now, we hire strictly from within our own community. Our friends, neighbors, and acquaintances, are being hired. If they act in a malfeasant way, isn’t it true they learned their “way” from us? Was our nod of approval acceptable? For some reason, when these people put on a uniform, they become different, or so called monsters. Then we want to crucify them for their behavior! They weren’t like us after all!.

    I would submit that we are already paying several layers of command staff at MPD to supervise, educate and train these officers. Are they ineffective? Who is to truthfully say?

    Truthfully, a civilian review board or oversight committee is nothing more than a way for the elected elite to pacify the many small splinter groups who, as stated by someone before, “have an axe to grind against the police.” As in the instant at hand, the respective members became bored, apathetic and “had other business to attend to.” The membership doesn’t suit their personal agenda, the cameras pan to something else, so away they go and along with it…….the civilian review board.

    SOLUTION: Don’t break the law and you will have no reason to encounter a police officer, other than Officer Safety at your school, or maybe The Peacemakers singing at your local old folks home.

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