MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The chief calls community policing an absolute priority. The mayor wants this to happen. Citizens agree that it is a must.
This summer, the Memphis Police Department hosted a series of events to build bridges and build trust in the community, especially with children. Those who attended said it was necessary.
âI grew up at Foote Homes so I understand what community policing is. We knew these officers. If we did something, we would agree that they would correct us. It was no different. We have to bring this back, âsaid participant Sunshine Washinton.
Memphis Police Chief CJ Davis has said community policing is a top priority.
âIt needs to be built into our police service. It needs to be part of our performance measurements and evaluations, âsaid Davis.
MPD launched its first community policing initiatives in the 1990s and revamped them in 2011 to make it a model still in use today. it’s called Community awareness program.
The goal of unity is to “disperse officers” in “high crime areas” to “identify and combat the root causes of violent and juvenile crime”, “cultivate and establish collaborative partnerships” and work with young people through ” education and crime prevention programs â.
This includes programs like the Citizens Police Academy, Shop with a Cop, and Youth Boxing. They organize school supplies and food drives, work in community centers and organize summer camps.
WREG investigators discovered in 2018 that there were 34 commissioned officers assigned to the unit.
In 2019, 32 police officers and eight technicians. In 2020, 30 commissioned officers and a police service technician.
As of November 5, there were only 23 officers.
“Community policing is not what it used to be and that is what we want to restore,” said Jamita Swearengen, board member.
She was one of many board members who told MPD at a meeting in January, they wanted more people dedicated to community policing.
MPD said it didn’t have the staff to make it happen, a statement Mayor Jim Strickland echoed in an email we obtained.
He sent it to council members on January 4. He wrote in part, “staff are even more severely affected by quarantines and isolates” and “when the pandemic is over, with current staffing levels, MPD may be able to staff two CO-ACT units. ten officers and a supervisor.
The Strickland team told us their position remains the same. While he would like the council’s request to materialize, the MPD is still understaffed. Right now there are just under 2,000 officers.
We contacted board members who made their voices heard earlier this year, but never heard back.
âAnd I think that’s what we need,â Shelby County Commissioner Van Turner said.
Turner is on the Strickland Police Reinvention Advisory Council. This summer, they recommended Davis to improve community policing. Turner said there are ways around a staff shortage.
âMaybe we have set up a situation where there is a virtual room. Everything is virtual now, right? Maybe there is an opportunity to speak with an agent at least practically twice a week in this community, âhe said.
At a recent crime forum, Davis said she plans to get creative.
“We are planning to bring back our reserve officers who are in fact retired but still have energy in them and who still want to be of service to the community,” she said. âSo they can lift light weights. The proactive presence. Walk in some neighborhoods.
Davis didn’t give a timeline, but we do know she’s working on her three to five year strategic plan.
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