The Memphis Police Department is off to a bumpy start in 2013.
Earlier this month, former MPD officer Melvin Robinson was sentenced to 84 months in federal prison for civil rights violations and attempting to possess 10 kilos of cocaine with the intent to distribute. In January, an officer was suspended under allegations that he sexually assaulted a 21-year-old woman.
Now, it turns out that one of the officers involved in the recent shooting death of 24-year-old Steven Askew has a checkered personnel file, including anger management issues and run-ins with citizens and other officers while on the job.
The MPD is currently seeking re-accreditation, and some citizens who attended a public forum held by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcment Agencies (CALEA) last week voiced criticism of the department.
"We just want [CALEA] to be as thorough as possible. We don't want the [MPD] to be legitimized by them," said Lorenzo Ervin of the Memphis Black Autonomy Federation, which provided CALEA with a "body count" report detailing 13 deaths that happened while suspects were under MPD's care or from officer-involved shootings.
The most recent name on the "body count" list is Askew, who was killed by officers Ned Aufdenkamp and Matthew Dyess on January 17th. The officers responded to a loud-music complaint at the Windsor Place Apartments. When they arrived on the scene, they did not hear any loud music but noticed a man, Steven Askew, asleep in a Crown Victoria. When they approached, the two noticed a handgun in Askew's car.
Aufdenkamp and Dyess allege they then knocked on the windows and issued verbal commands to Askew, who, according to the officers, armed himself with his gun and pointed it at them. The two officers fired their weapons, and Askew was killed. Aufdenkamp and Dyess have both been relieved of duty with pay while the matter is investigated.
According to his personnel file, Aufdenkamp was already on the department's radar for past performance problems and was submitted for the department's Early Intervention Program in 2012.
Aufdenkamp's file reveals four complaints against him and a record of seven reports of citizens resisting arrest — including five within a three-month period and some that involved the use of chemical spray and physical force.
"The supervisors were bothered by the frequency and proximity of the resisting arrests, the use of chemical spray, and the resulting injuries to either Aufdenkamp or the suspect," the report reads. "Several complainants explained, in their own words, that they felt Aufdenkamp would intentionally ratchet up the level of pressure on the scene when it wasn't necessary."
On January 5, 2012, Aufdenkamp was involved in a verbal altercation with a fellow officer on a traffic stop. According to the report, "the original conversation was with another officer, but Aufdenkamp interjected himself into the altercation."
Later that month, the Internal Affairs Bureau received a complaint that Aufdenkamp was "rude and disrespectful" during a traffic stop and had "approached with his gun out." He was then referred to the Early Intervention Program and placed on desk duty. In March 2012, Aufdenkamp was ordered to attend anger management training.
In April 2011, the MPD received a complaint that Aufdenkamp stopped a violator and supposedly roughed him up, searched him for no reason, broke his rear windshield with a flashlight, and got on his loudspeaker and said, "Speed up or I'm going to take your black-ass to jail."
"As a result of the department investigation, Aufdenkamp was temporarily assigned to the precinct front desk because if he continues to generate complaints, he could be placed in an official non-enforcement status for up to six months," the report summary reads.
Director Toney Armstrong was unavailable for comment. Shelby County district attorney Amy Weirich declined to speak while the matter is being investigated.