Civilian Review Board May Be Making A Comeback

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(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.


  • Thomas H. Evans

    Do you really believe the Police are going to be turning over any information to an outside group who is supposed to be investigating complaints against them, they can’t even get their own Internal Affairs to properly investigate complaints against them, why, because this police thing is a brotherhood, and you had better be careful when you make a complaint against one of them. This review board will have no power, and no one will act on any concerns they may have.

  • John T. Dwyer

    April 8, 2014 at 9:07 am
    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. The Garner decision stopped the shooting of non violent felony suspects. The Pollow incident outlawing “hog” tying suspects.
    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.

  • Hard Truths

    Board needs SUBPOENA POWER.

    Board needs staff, including an attorney.

    Internal Affairs is a corrupt joke.

  • Hard Truths

    Why didn’t Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board raise a stink when IA stopped sending them cases?

    Whose interests were CLERB really serving?

    We don’t need police toadies on CLERB.

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