Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Law Enforcement Consolidation Group Discusses Deadline

Posted on Wed, Oct 31, 2007 at 4:00 AM

"I'm concerned about the time we have left to make a decision,� said Memphis Shelby Crime Commission director Mike Heidingsfield at a meeting of the Shelby County Commission’s Law Enforcement Consolidation Task Force Wednesday afternoon.

The committee has until December 15th to make a recommendation as to whether or not city and county police forces should consider consolidation. But Heidingsfield and other committee members expressed concern that the group, which has been meeting since August, has yet to determine whether they're considering full consolidation (a complete merger of both police forces) or functional consolidation (a merger of individual units like a metro DUI squad or metro SWAT team).

"If we're going to continue to talk and talk and talk, we need to decide what we're talking about," said Memphis Police director Larry Godwin.

"Meeting a December deadline would be very problematic for this body," added deputy county attorney Danny Presley.

So far, the committee has heard presentations from consolidated departments across the country (like Las Vegas and Louisville, Kentucky), briefly looked at a cost analysis for full consolidation, and talked with representatives from the Memphis Police Association and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Deputies' Association.

But Heidingfield says the group has yet to consider the additional cost of adding the 600 Memphis Police officers requested by the mayor earlier this year. And they haven't spent much time on discussing whether a sheriff or appointed director should run a new consolidated force. Nor has the group spoken with representatives from neighboring towns, like Arlington and Lakeland.

"We haven't even discussed a rationale for changing from the status quo," said Heidingsfield.

Task force chair and county commissioner Mike Carpenter reminded the group that they should only be thinking about making a general recommendation as to whether the forces should or should not consolidate. That recommendation will be studied in greater detail by a new committee formed after the December deadline.

Said Carpenter: "After December 12th [the date of the last meeting], if we need more time, we can go back to the council and ask for more time."

--Bianca Phillips

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