Blue Review 

Allegations of police misconduct get public hearings.

One Memphian claimed Memphis Police Department (MPD) officers arrested him for filming them, another alleged an abusive arrest.

The Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board (CLERB) will continue gathering evidence on both of these complaints against MPD officers and present it during its meeting in November.

CLERB hears cases of police misconduct in Memphis and can recommend punishment for officers to the police director, but it cannot enforce penalties. The board had gone dormant but was revived last year and given new investigative powers earlier this year.

The board met last week to review a case involving Paul Garner, a local grassroots organizer, and Ashley Moore, a volunteer with Manna House. Both were arrested on Oct. 21, 2013 while police were searching for a possible robbery suspect at Manna House, which provides hygiene essentials and food to homeless Memphians.

Garner said he was charged with disorderly conduct because, "there is no charge (you can use) for filming the police." Moore was running Manna House that evening and was arrested after she denied MPD officers entry to the house without a warrant. Both were charged with obstruction of a highway or passageway.

click to enlarge A video still shows MPD officers at Manna House in 2013. - PAUL GARNER
  • Paul Garner
  • A video still shows MPD officers at Manna House in 2013.

During Moore's arrest, Garner arrived on the scene and began filming the interaction. He said this act alone earned his arrest. Both Garner and Moore had their cell phones confiscated at the scene. The charges were dropped within 24 hours, and Garner subsequently filed a complaint with the MPD's Internal Affairs Bureau.

Central to CLERB's deliberation on Garner's complaint is whether or not MPD had its policy regarding bystander's filming police activity made accessible to the public. An archived story from WREG News Channel 3 shows MPD released its policy to the public on Dec. 19, 2013, nearly two months after Garner's arrest.

Local criminal defense attorney and CLERB member John Marek spearheaded many of the questions into Garner's complaint, at one point musing aloud, "I don't know why, but for some reason it seems that when officers can't find anything to arrest someone on, they go for disorderly conduct."

Though it is unclear what will happen if CLERB concludes that MPD officers have been inconsistent with upholding their filming policy, Garner would like to see the board make policy recommendations to the MPD.

CLERB also reviewed a case filed by Robert Howard, who asserts that a police officer intentionally and abusively cuffed him around his right leg. Howard said he had a blood clot in the area and pleaded with the officer not to cuff him there. He alleges that his arresting officer threw water on his face and kicked him on his backside while attempting to revive him.

"I only want to know why," said Howard, "Why would you put that clamp around my leg, knowing that there was a blood clot there and being warned that it would be dangerous to do so?"

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