Last Thursday, Memphis United & the Mid-South Peace & Justice Center held a press conference after we learned that anti-violence advocate, and grieving father, Reginald Johnson was told by police that he had been placed on a “hazard list” after filing an internal Affairs complaint concerning a 2016 incident when he was unjustly beaten, maced, and arrested by officers after he called them to assist a man who knocked on his front door after being shot. We called on Mayor Jim Strickland and MPD to release a memo that Reginald be removed from any type of “hazard list” and release a policy outlining the criteria for categorization as a hazard, as well as the process for removal of such a characterization from one’s name or home address.
Many community members attended to demand justice for a man who has received ill treatment from MPD since he spoke out to media about the lack of answers and communication concerning the still-unsolved murder of his son, Samuel Johnson, in 2014. Unfortunately, MPD and the Strickland Administration have chosen to respond in the form of semantic games, saying, “there is no hazard list.” It may be technically true that MPD does not maintain a single, compiled list of individuals categorized as hazards, but that is NOT the issue, and both MPD and the Strickland administration know it. They go on to admit that MPD DOES categorize certain individuals’ addresses as hazards.
“Hazards are placed on locations were [sic] an officer has experienced some type of incident which has been identified as a possible hazard for officers. A few examples: locations where prior barricade situations have occurred, violent and/or combative mental consumers, a combative party, someone who has fought with officers, etc,”
Mr. Johnson doesn’t fit any of those categories. Apparently, his home was categorized as a hazard after one of the officers he filed a complaint against accused Mr. Johnson of making a threat against his wife and child, an accusation that is completely without merit or substantiation. Since then, Mr. Johnson has experienced squad cars driving by his home, shining lights into his windows at night, and back in February of 2017, when his daughter called to file an non-emergency accident report from his home after her car was struck in a hit and run, the dispatcher asked, “Is Mr. Johnson there?…is he okay?” His daughter, confused, asked, “y’all know him?” to which the dispatcher responded, “Yeah…we do.” Four squad cars showed up with lights blazing while one officer took the accident report.
Mr. Johnson has met with officials at every level of government to resolve this issue. He has met personally with Deputy Chief Shearin, Deputy Director Ryall, Police Director Rallings, and even Mayor Strickland. For months, he has been promised that they were “working on it” and yet the hazard categorization remains on his home and MPD has not released a policy outlining the hazard categorization. On August 15, The Mid-South Peace & Justice Center made a written inquiry on Mr. Johnson’s behalf, asking them to lift the categorization and release the policy. The only response we received was from Deputy Director Ryall stating, “Thank you, Mr. Garner. I appreciate you providing this information. We have been communication with Mr. Johnson and will continue to do so.” Yet, nothing has changed.
This amounts to a form of extrajudicial punishment for Mr. Johnson exercising his right to file a complaint in an attempt to hold officers accountable. Mr. Johnson has not been found guilty of any crime. The accusations made by one officer against Mr. Johnson have never been substantiated, because it never happened. This means that anyone who speaks out against harassment or misconduct may be subject to retaliation without standard due process protections like notice of the accusation and the right to a hearing.
Director Rallings’, and especially the Mayor’s failure to act on this issue isn’t just disappointing, it’s unacceptable, signaling a complete lack of leadership and accountability which has become commonplace in this administration. The Mayor’s office told Mr. Johnson that they don’t intervene in police matters. If this is true, then what do we have the Mayor for? The Police Director is not an elected position like the County Sheriff—he serves at the will and pleasure of the mayor who appointed him. When civilians can’t get an appropriate response through MPD’s bureaucracy, it is incumbent on the Mayor to ensure that issues such as these are resolved in a fair and timely manner.
We’ve heard Strickland and Rallings offer endless talking points about their commitment to transparency and accountability in government, and yet here is just one more example to the contrary. Semantic games and empty talking points are no substitute for governance. We urge the public to continue to contact their Mayor and demand that MPD release a written memo, removing any “hazard” categorization from Mr. Johnson’s name or home, as well as make MPD’s policy on hazard categorizations public. Reginald Johnson deserves peace and justice, and we as a governed people deserve leadership that is fair and accountable, not only in word, but in deed.
Please sign this petition demanding the removal of Mr. Johnson from any “hazard” categorization, and the release of a public policy outlining the criteria and process for removal of such a categorization: SIGN THE PETITION
We are also asking that you continue to call your Mayor & your Police Director, and tell them to do the right thing.
(1) MPD release an official written memo stating that Reginald Johnson’s name and home address be removed from any “hazard” categorization.
(2) Release a policy defining this categorization and the process whereby individuals can be removed from the categorization as a “hazard”
Mayor Strickland: firstname.lastname@example.org, (901) 636-6000
MPD Director Rallings: Michael.Rallings@memphistn.gov