Memphis City Council moves forward on police reform resolutions

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Three resolutions related to police reforms will move toward a full Memphis City Council vote after an online meeting Tuesday.

Council members say they want to make sure there’s accountability within the police department and are taking steps to build trust after days of protest in the city.

“I’ve heard that protest does not necessarily produce results,” Councilman JB Smiley Jr. said. “I would beg to differ. I think this is a complete contradiction of that narrative.”

Related: Memphis mayor, activists say they’re committed to making changes in policing

Memphis city council members say they’ve received thousands of emails from concerned citizens in the last week calling for police reform.

Memphis Police Director Mike Rallings joined the online discussion, telling council members the department is committed to making changes.

“I just want to make sure that everybody understands that we are 100 percent committed to working with you to revise policy, revise training, be more accountable, be more transparent to respond to what we see, and it’s something we’ve never seen before,” Rallings said.

One resolution asks the department to adopt the “8 Can’t Wait” use of force reduction policies, which includes a ban on chokeholds.

Rallings says the department abides by a lot of the 8 Can’t Wait principles already so it could require reviewing and revising language.

“Chokeholds are banned in policy already and they’re also restricted by state law but just remember that if deadly force is authorized that is the only time,” he said.

Smiley also presented a resolution that would make police complaints public, using a model from Chicago police. It would be a step beyond the city’s current public portal.

“This will allow people to see every step in the complaint process so they know where their complaint is, know who’s looking upon it and even know how many complaints are being made,” Smiley said.

Council also discussed creating a community task force to help with search for a new MPD director to replace Rallings, who is retiring, and a resolution requiring Memphians to wear facial coverings during the pandemic.

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