In May of this year, a group of community members came together to hear about Community and Police Reconciliation. We discussed how this project will be lead by the communities that are suffering the most from negative interactions with the police. We reviewed the history of why the community and law enforcement have come to the point of needing reconciliation.
Over the years there have been incidents such as:
1.) The mistreatment (beating) of Duanna Johnson, a transgender woman.
2.) Members of the Latino community feel that even if they are documented citizens their voices aren’t being heard fairly. Leaving them to feel they can’t report crimes of injustice such as robberies, mistreatment by landlords, domestic violence and other crimes.
3.) African Americans feel an injustice when they are stopped for minor traffic violations or just for being Black.
4.) There has been a wholesale move away from community policing towards the BlueCRUSH model of data-driven policing. This has resulted in community members only having interactions with police officers when there is an emergency and/or something bad happens.
5.) Almost weekly reports in the media of criminal activities committed by law enforcement officers themselves.
The Mid-South Peace and Justice Center has worked in communities across the city for more than 30 years. A consistent problem that is brought to our attention is the negative relationship that exists between law enforcement and the community. We believe that since policing is a tax-payer funded operation, that the entire community should be involved in setting the agenda of how we deal with crime. Right now many feel as if they are victims in the process of addressing crime and handling police misconduct. We hope to engage the community to become leaders on this issue, so that the community can set the agenda.
In Memphis and Shelby County, citizens have real concerns where the hurt and pain will need to be addressed, in order to move forward in a reconciliation process. The citizens of Memphis should know that conditions and concerns have an opportunity to change with their voices. We are hopeful in the new leadership of the Memphis Police Department. Director Armstrong is a native Memphian and has signaled that he would like to move forward towards a positive working relationship with the community. When a community is healthy and safe we all benefit.
As the citizens of Memphis and Shelby County lead the process toward moving forward to reconciliation, we will be a continued support for the citizens of Memphis and Shelby County that wish to take control over all aspects of their lives. Including in this instance, how we handle crime in our community. Will we handle it with brute force? Or will we focus on community based solutions? That is the conversation this project seeks to engage in.
So, what is reconciliation? That is something that we all have to decide and it is a conversation that is starting now. Join us by contacting Melissa at or email@example.com.