Memphis United says the existing Citizens' Law Enforcement Review Board is a dog with a bark and no teeth.
The city board is supposed to meet once a month so citizens can voice their concerns when they are not satisfied with the results of a Memphis Police Department Internal Affairs Division investigation. But Memphis United members say the board isn't functioning properly.
Nick Hicks, one of the spokespeople for Memphis United, claims the law enforcement review board doesn't actually meet. Contact information for the review board ends up being bypassed into the city's legal department. Memphis City Council member and Citizens' Law Enforcement Review Board member Harold Collins did not return the Flyer's calls for comment.
Memphis United was formed last year out of the uproar surrounding the name changes of three Confederate-themed parks in the city. Since October of last year, however, the group has been focusing on encounters with the Memphis Police Department after two heated incidents involving questionable police conduct that was caught on tape.
One incident involved arrests at Manna House, a volunteer-run hospitality house for people experiencing homelessness. The other incident took place at a post-Trolley Tour hip-hop event on South Main, where two people were arrested and others were threatened for filming the police officers.
Hicks said an improved law enforcement review board would provide accountability for police officers. Hicks was present during the South Main demonstration.
"People think everything is pretty much fine, and it's not fine," Hicks said. "With the board and police accountability, when citizens complain, they can really take it up a step above [the Memphis Police Department's] Internal Affairs. They're going to do anything to protect their boys. With the review board, changes can be made there."
Since the two incidents in October, the police department has released its public recordings policy, which maintains that citizens have the right to videotape police officers in a public setting as long as it does not interfere with police work. Memphis United has also focused on sensitivity training with officers in dealing with the public.
Jim Brown, a member of Memphis United, said a review board that works would allow Memphians to become more comfortable with police officers, especially if they were on the receiving end of misconduct.
"By holding police officers accountable, it would make the community safer, [allow citizens to] get more involved, and work with police officers," Brown said. "Right now, they just don't want to talk to them."
He cites two shootings that happened in his apartment complex that have not yet been solved. According to Brown, his neighbors know the suspect involved in the shooting, but they're afraid to talk to the police due to the lack of trust.
"It's about having a working relationship with the police department," Brown said.
Memphis United is currently in talks with the Memphis City Council on ways to improve the Citizens' Law Enforcement Review Board.