Civilian Review Board May Be Making A Comeback

(Memphis) Policing the police was a problem many citizens ran into when they had complaints about law enforcement.

The Citizens Law Enforcement Review Board was set up to get around that.

Dr. David Acey was one of the first members and says early on they were busy.

“Quite busy. We had a back log of cases and I think we were pretty successful in the long run because the police knew we were tracking them and keeping up with them,” Acey said.

He says it quickly became clear the board didn’t have the teeth needed to make changes.

Rev. Ralph White served two terms as Board Chair.

“We made recommendations to the Police Director, at that time Director Godwin, and he would review them and they just got rubber stamped. Not enough evidence to sustain the complaint and that was over and over again,” White said.

He says Police Internal Affairs, who were supposed to refer cases to the board, stopped sending them.

“They cut the budget and continued to cut the budget,” said White.

Memphis City Councilman Harold Collins says money wasn’t cut by the council.

“That’s not true. We know for a fact council allocated resources to the Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board,” Collins said.

Yet board members say the city told them the funds were not there and actually cut the one investigator hired to work with the board.

So for years, there was no action.

This week, a grassroots organization called Memphis United said enough is enough and called out the city for disbanding the board.

They are now pushing to get the board back and with more citizen input and more power.

City officials say they are working on it.

Both White and Acey say they were recently contacted about serving.

“You need oversight. You need oversight, somebody needs to be watching someone,” said Acey.

The city says it is reviewing the ordinance that set up the Civilian Review Board and seeing what changes are needed.

A report is expected back in a couple of weeks.