Commission Rules in Judges' Favor: No Retired Officers as Bailiffs 

What looked to be a substantial portion of the local judiciary poured into the upstairs meeting room of the Shelby County Commission on Wednesday. Their mission was to bear witness against a proposal to substitute retired law enforcement officers for a few of the bailiff positions now held by uniformed active sheriff’s deputies.

After a good deal of impassioned testimony, followed by a modicum of cross-examination, their jurors – members of the commission – rendered a verdict in the judges' favor: Nothing doing.

Actually, the proposal, offered by Commissioner Wyatt Bunker, merely asked for the judges to enter into a dialogue with the commission and with the sheriff’s department concerning some such future deployment of retired officers. But even that was too much for the judges on hand, many of whom protested on the basis of factors ranging from increased security concerns to the vigor and familiarity with specific courtroom conditions that currently serving officers had to offer.

Bunker’s proposal was in fact a watered-down version of one offered earlier by the sheriff’s department but withdrawn by Sheriff Mark Luttrell two weeks ago as judicial resistance began to mount.

The earlier proposal would have authorized a change in the composition of security contingents from the current ration of four deputies in criminal courtrooms to one of three deputies plus one retired officer. As envisioned, the plan proposed to save the county a minimum of $600,000 of annually.

To emphasize that point, Commissioner Steve Mulroy extensively questioned Harvey Kennedy, governmental liaison for Luttrell, eliciting answers which tended to support the idea that economies could be had at minimal risk to courtroom security.

But almost every judge had a horror story to relate, either theoretical or actual, about the unpredictability of defendant behavior, and, toward the end of the debate, the speeches by commissioners and those from the judges and lawyers had tended to blur together, all focusing on the specter of impaired security.

The fact that, as commissioner David Lillard noted, a shooting had just occurred at Arkansas Democratic Party headquarters further underlined the pre-eminence of that concern.

Such support as might originally have existed on the commission for giving the three-and-one concept s limited try almost palpably suffered a meltdown, as did the mere notion of talking about it -- which, after all, had been the point of Bunker's resolution.

At the end, after commissioner Sidney Chism,chairman of the law enforcement committee which was in theory vetting the proposal, condemned it himself and called for a vote, only two commissioners present – Bunker and Mike Carpenter – were prepared to stand by it.

As Mulroy would note wanly, Sheriff Luttrell's abandonment of the three-and-one concept had deprived it of momentum, and, as several of the other commissioners pointed out, the virulence of judicial opposition in Wednesday’s free-for-all was a clear indication that any future discussions were likely to go nowhere, in any case.


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

    • Meatless Monday

      No sausages got made in this week’s Shelby County Commission meeting.
    • Commission Gets It Together

      Consensus for medical marijuana; against school vouchers and county social media policy.


News Blog

Pence Cancels Memphis Visit

Fly On The Wall Blog

MAF Has a New Meaning: Memphis Ass Farm

News Blog

Alexander to TVA: Don't Buy Wind Power

Intermission Impossible

Hattiloo Announces Season 12: August Wilson, Lynn Nottage, Soul Train...

News Blog

Memphis Theological Seminary Stands with Refugees

News Blog

Fight Over Forrest Statue Isn't Over


More by Jackson Baker

  • Meatless Monday

    No sausages got made in this week’s Shelby County Commission meeting.
    • Mar 23, 2017
  • Whistle-Blower’s Crime

    The current inquiry into possible Trump campaign misdeeds recalls a long-gone bit of personal history.
    • Mar 23, 2017
  • Mae Beavers for Governor?

    Yes, Flyer folk, you may have the General Assembly's Iron Maiden to deal with in 2018!
    • Mar 20, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Election 2015: The Mike Williams Factor

    Some think three’s already a crowd in the mayor’s race, but a fourth candidate insists there’s room for more.
    • Sep 3, 2015
  • Filling the Space

    For all the in-fighting, we’re all looking for the same thing, and sometimes we can realize it.
    • Jul 14, 2016
  • Was Bush on Guard or AWOL?

    The Flyer’s groundbreaking 2004 story of ANG pilot George W. Bush’s failure to report to an assigned duty station in 1972 is the basis of events portrayed in the new movie Truth.
    • Nov 5, 2015
© 1996-2017

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation