City leaders push for changes to ‘ineffective’ CLERB

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It’s been four years since the Citizen’s Law Enforcement Review Board (CLERB) was reactivated in Memphis, and a lack of results has some city leaders pushing for change.

When discussing a new ordinance that would replace CLERB’s nine-person board with the 12-member City Council staff, councilman Worth Morgan was blunt in explaining why he feels change is necessary.

“You look at the totality of their work and their results, which are very little, and then the cost of a million dollars, I think that’s where it’s easy to say they simply haven’t been effective,” Morgan said.

“Yes, CLERB has been ineffective,” CLERB chairperson Casey Bryant said. “It has been ineffective because the City Council has rendered it so.”

In the four years CLERB has functioned, there have been five police cases where they wrote letters and recommended actions. But in all five instances, Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings declined to follow their suggestions, with backing from the mayor and City Council. Advocates said CLERB lacks power as currently constructed, but the organization said a supportive City Council would enhance their performance.

“The City Council has relationships with the police, with administration,” Morgan said. “We have the power of the purse. We have more tools at our disposal.”

“We can work with the police department and with the City Council to make sure that we have a safer Memphis, but it doesn’t help to just undo everything that we’ve worked on and start again,” Bryant said.

Set to be picked up again when the council meets next on Nov. 19, it doesn’t seem like this issue is going to be resolved easily, one way or another.

“If you recognize that a change needs to be made, (you have) to have that ability to enact change,” Morgan said. “And that’s one of the problems with CLERB. They haven’t had the ability to enact any change, whatsoever.”

“I think it’s important for there to be one, to have a CLERB, to have an independent review board, but one that is supported and one that has the ability to engage the City Council and work with them to get the things that we need for this city,” Bryant said.

WREG will continue to cover this story up to City Council’s Nov. 19 meeting.

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