MPD spends thousands policing parks with Confederate statues

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The Memphis Police Department is spending thousands of dollars in overtime policing parks with Confederate statues.

With crime running rampant and MPD already spread thin, taxpayers wonder if their money is well spent.

Police are posted under the Jefferson Davis statue in the Memphis Park and at the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue and gravesite in the Medical District.

"I've had my truck broken into twice. My apartment broken into," said Curtis Waycaster.

He said he knows firsthand: Crime is a problem in the city he was born and raised in.

"I don't see where there's a lot of riffraff or anything going on here," he said looking at the park the Jefferson Davis statue sits in.

Waycaster wonders why officers are guarding parks with Confederate monuments around the clock especially when MPD is understaffed.

"So they spray paint it? We sand blast it, take the paint off, or whatever. They are talking about bringing them down anyways, so what's it really matter? The most important thing is keeping the community ," he said.

MPD said it's spent more than $63,000 in overtime in August related to protests and safety details, and a chunk of that went to guarding two city parks with Confederate statues.

Officers were pulled from 14 precincts to keep watch.

In a statement, the mayor's chief communications officer wrote, "Memphis Police are at parks to protect people, not statues. The city would certainly be criticized if people with opposing views on the statues clashed at the park and police were not there to intervene immediately."

"On an ongoing basis like we've been doing, it's not right and inappropriate to me to use our dollars to protect those monuments," said Council Chairman Berlin Boyd.

Boyd said protests and threats fueled the police presence, but he's asking legal counsel if the state should be held responsible.

"The city of Memphis needs to find a way to get out of having protection in the parks for these monuments," he said. "Since the state is adamant of having these statues in our city, you protect them."

Lee Millar with the Sons of the Confederacy offered his opinion on police at these parks. He said protesters who've been out there recently cannot be trusted and said it's "obvious we need this protection" to keep the peace and "protect monuments, artwork and our history."