Memphis United has announced a campaign involving social media and town hall meetings to improve the Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board, which has been reinstated by the Wharton administration after being inactive for four years, according to the organization. The Flyer covered Memphis United's early work on this issue in February.
At a press conference Thursday evening, members of the group spoke about their experiences with the Memphis Police Department and the Internal Affairs Bureau. Speakers included Paul Garner, an organizer with the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, who was arrested while filming officers last year. His process took months to complete with Internal Affairs and went nowhere.
“[The review board] existed nowhere but on paper,” Garner said to reporters. “Now, it has no subpoena power and no punitive authority.”
The board was also only allowed to review investigations that were completed by Internal Affairs.
Deborah Robinson, a freelance journalist from Las Vegas, also spoke to reporters after having an incident with Memphis police last month, where she was allegedly questioned and assaulted while filming an arrest at a bus terminal.
In December, the Memphis Police Department released its formal policy on recording, instructing officers to refrain from asking for identification or reasons for recording as well as stopping those in the process of recording.
“The officers ignored the policy,” Robinson said.
For inspiration, Memphis United looked at Knoxville as a model for the proposed improvements to the Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board.
The first town hall meeting for citizens to offer input into Memphis United’s work to “make [the board] more effective” is June 24th at 6 p.m. in the Lewis Davis CME Church, located in the Chickasaw Gardens neighborhood. The organization also has a hashtag for people to share experiences with Memphis police on social media, #CLERBspeakout2014.