MEMPHIS, Tenn. — There was a heated meeting at the Greenlaw Community Center Tuesday night over the future of the Uptown area building. 

The discussion came after an April 25 council meeting, when the Memphis Police Department announced their hope to use the center as a safe space for children who are out past curfew to reunite with their parents. 

Memphis Police Chief CJ Davis made a swift exit from Tuesday night’s meeting after assuring the public the recently obtained community center will not be used as a safe holding space for kids who are out past curfew. 

She said the space will be used for community engagement, including the Clergy Police Academy and the Citizens Police Academy. 

“That narrative got away, we’re really not sure how it got away,” Davis said.  

But Chief Davis said it herself at the city council committee meeting on April 25.

“We’d like to be able to utilize one of our centers, even a couple of our precincts so that we can find a safe space for our young people until they can be reunited with their parents,” Davis said at the time.

“So the goal is to take the young people to Greenlaw?” asked Council Vice Chair JB Smiley.

“As soon as we get that area upgraded,” Davis replied.

It was this statement that brought hundreds of people out Tuesday night, fighting for the safety of their community and their kids. 

“Stay out of our community centers, do you hear me? If you want to arrest kids 12 or 13 years old, take them home to their parents or to juvenile court,” said one resident who attended the meeting.

“If this becomes a detention center, they’re not going to come here to play sports. They want nothing to do with the police,” said another resident.

Despite reassurance from Chief Davis and Councilwoman Michalyn Easter-Thomas that it will not be used for that purpose, community members still are not convinced. 

“If we can’t agree on what was said to the press a month ago, then we can not put trust in what’s said in front of us today,” said one resident.

Councilwoman Easter-Thomas said in order to instill that trust within the community, they will require reports of how Greenlaw Community Center is being used at every single council meeting. She said she is open to other methods of accountability from the community as well.