Memphis plans to make police misconduct records more accessible

Investigations

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The city of Memphis is looking at creating an online portal to make accessing police misconduct records more accessible.

In a virtual city council committee meeting Tuesday, the mayor’s team laid out a new vision when it comes to police misconduct records. They said they want to create an online dashboard with information surrounding the use of force and excessive force complaints. These records are already made public, but they can be costly to access.

WREG-TV requested records of excessive force and firearm discharge from 2015 through 2019 in January. We were told it would cost $7,500 because there were 24,000 pages of documents, and it would take over 88 hours to retrieve and redact the files. We then narrowed down the request for six months, and seven months later, we have not received those documents.

“It wasn’t intentional,” Mayor Jim Strickland said at the time. “We weren’t trying to hide anything.”

The mayor said back in July the record-keeping system is outdated.

Now the city is trying to create an online portal to fix that.

Councilman JB Smiley said he is pushing for the online portal, so people can access records and track complaints. He said right now, officers generally avoid public scrutiny because their records of misconduct are handled within the department and filed away. Additionally, he said if the records are more accessible, then they will be able to find areas of improvement quicker.

“I want to make sure the citizens of Memphis are able to track the process,” Smiley said. “We also (want to) include the misuse of body-worn cameras in the information that is presented for public view.”

Police Director Michael Rallings has said the department will continue to take steps to make more information available. The framework for the new portal is expected to be ready in the coming weeks, and the launch date is planned for early next year.

Memphis Police Department recently launched a new website. It includes how citizens can file complaints, get involved, and offer suggestions. They also include internal reports and policy.

You can access that website by clicking here.

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