MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County commissioners took up several ordinances Wednesday that could result in changes to law enforcement, but the issues came with some controversy.
“I am tired of our officers being vilified,” Commissioner Amber Mills said. “They are heroes.”
One item called on the county sheriff’s office to disband and discontinue specialized units, similar to a measure that was approved for Memphis police after the Tyre Nichols beating.
But commissioners said the city and the county are not the same.
“There are no specialized units named. I’ve only heard MPD referenced, and this body has nothing to do with MPD,”
Co-sponsor Erika Sugarmon had second thoughts, and moved to take her name off the ordinance.
“What this does is basically what we don’t want to happen, is for the law enforcement to feel like they don’t have the tool box to support and help our communities,” Sugarmon said.
Despite Sugarmon’s change of heart, those like Adam Nelson with Decarcerate Memphis are in favor of dissolving specialized units.
“They are where we see the most violence, it’s where we see the most violations of civil rights,” Nelson said.
Still, the measure failed with six no votes and one abstension.
The next item centered around banning biased and pretextual traffic stops — typically a stop for a minor traffic violation like a broken tail light. The item was moved to the October calendar.
Former officer and county resident Darrell Sheffield told commissioners he was opposed to the idea.
“Why would you not stop a vehicle that is in violation of state law? The violation is a violation, and you need to stop that,” he said.
Each item requires at least three readings before the body. There’s a lot that still needs to be sorted out, but one thing the commissioner agree on is the need for more data and deliberation.