Memphis United needs YOU to ensure that our resolution is more than just righteous words on paper. Join us at City Council Tuesday, May 6th, at 3:30PM and contact your council person, and urge them to support our resolution for comprehensive public input to reform Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board, enabling it to be a transparent process that the residents of Memphis can have confidence in when their complaints against officers are not handled in a satisfactory manner by Internal Affairs.
My name is Paul Garner and I am an Organizing Coordinator with the Mid-South Peace & Justice Center. I have worked with Homeless Organizing for Power & Equality (HOPE) since 2010. We regularly receive reports from people experiencing homelessness of mistreatment and harassment from law enforcement, ranging from unwarranted profiling to physical harm. In November of 2012, members of HOPE were harassed at the Manna House. Three members, including myself, were cited for for ‘obstruction of a sidewalk’. On October 21st, 2014 another incident occurred at the Manna House. Officers were attempting to enter the property without a warrant. They were told by staff in charge that they were not permitted on their private property without a warrant, but the police continued. When I arrived, John Holle, the volunteer in charge, was using his phone to film police, as he continued to request that they not enter the property without a warrant. He was instructed by officers to stop filming or he would be arrested. As I approached the scene, camera-phone in hand, officers were handcuffing him. I requested the officers’ names & badge numbers. The officers refused before telling me that if I continued filming, I’d be arrested too. I was cuffed and charged with ‘obstruction of a sidewalk & disorderly conduct.’ Upon our release from jail the next morning, charges were dropped, and we immediately filed complaints with IAD. It took six months just to receive a letter in the mail stating that my complaints against the officers, were ‘not sustained.’ Officials with the Inspectional Services Bureau told me that this was because MPD didn’t have a policy on filming in place at the time of the incident. This is contrary to statements made by Police Director Toney Armstrong. I will have to file an open records request with the city’s Office of Open Records to find out for sure.
I attempted to appeal the findings IAD’s investigation. I discovered that the Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board (CLERB), set up to review IAD investigations when complainants were dissatisfied, had been dissolved, despite being created by ordinance approved by the City Council in 1994. Therefore, CLERB cannot be disbanded without seven votes of the Council. The City’s Web-Site still listed a description of the process for filing a complaint through CLERB, as well as a hot-line. However, the number went to an unaffiliated person in the City of Memphis’ Legal Department, or a generic voicemail, where messages left went unreturned. Even when CLERB was operational, they were a powerless board with no subpoena power and officers’ involvement in the investigation was purely voluntary.
Days later, another incident involving the arrest of people for filming police happened at KPreSha Boutique on South Main, when police began pepper spraying young men and women at a Hip Hop Show during the downtown Trolley Night. These events sparked the reignition of Memphis United, a coalition made up of individuals and community organizations. We pressured MPD to release their policy on filming officers and drafted a list of asks for different city officials aimed at creating greater transparency and accountability of law enforcement to the community. Among these asks, was the reformation of a CLERB, and a resolution for Memphis United and the members of the City Council to jointly host public input forums in every Council District to determine the scope and powers of a reformed CLERB might look like. Our resolution has gone before the Public Safety Committee of the Memphis City Council, sponsored by Janis Fullilove, Wanda Halbert and Lee Harris, and will go before the full Council on Tuesday, May 6th.
Please join us at City Hall on Tuesday at 3:30 PM and contact your City Council representative and urge them to vote ‘YES’ on Memphis United’s Resolution!! Make the call today!
Bill Morrison, District 1
William C. Boyd, District 2
Harold B. Collins, District 3
– or –
P.O. Box 301132
Memphis, TN 38130
Wanda Halbert, District 4
Chairman Jim Strickland, District 5
Edmund Ford, Jr., Ed.D, District 6
Lee Harris, District 7
Joe Brown, Super District 8, Position 1
Memphis TN 38107
Janis Fullilove, District 8, Position 2
Vice Chairman, Myron Lowery, District 8, Position 3
Kemp Conrad, Super District 9, Position 1
Shea Flinn, Super District 9, Position 1