MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A former Memphis Police officer is the new chair of the Memphis Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board, also known as CLERB.
In a 6-to-2 vote, the Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board elected Memphis Police veteran James Kirkwood as their chairman.
The retired colonel was on the force for 31 years.
He says throughout his career, his focus has always been on bettering police relations within the community.
“It was all about community and how do I bring the best police service to the community,” Kirkwood said.
CLERB is tasked with investigating allegations of police misconduct. Kirkwood says even as an officer, he always supported CLERB.
“Because I’m this guy who believes that the police department needs a voice that can legitimize it’s doing and hold them accountable,” Kirkwood said.
In recent years, CLERB has been under scrutiny for not being effective. On top of being considered ineffective, a state law took away their subpoena power—a request that can now only be fulfilled by city council.
However, this year, CLERB’s position was a major topic for religious leaders, activists, and city officials in response to the black lives matter movement.
Kirkwood tells WREG despite his background, his focus will remain on doing what’s best for the community.
“Please know that this board is not anti-police. I’m not anti-police. I’m not anti-community. I am pro-police, and I am pro-community,” Kirkwood said.
Along with being chairman, Kirkwood is also the executive director for the Memphis Christian Pastors Network, which consists of numerous Memphis churches.
Several of those church leaders were also very vocal not just when it came to empowering CLERB but when it came to reimaging policing. That’s another topic Kirkwood says he stands behind.
“The police department can improve in a lot of ways. I’m a strong advocate for community policing,” Kirkwood said.
Kirkwood also tells WREG he wants to make sure moving forward all complaints are heard and resolved in a proper manner.