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'We do not need to see this in our community ever again' | Memphis City Councilman moves to hold MPD more accountable

As federal, state, and local investigations into the circumstances surrounding the death of Tyre Nichols continue, Memphians are demanding changes in policing.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Emotions were high during Tuesday’s Memphis City Council meeting, where activists held signs and demanded immediate changes and direct action from city leaders.  

As federal, state, and local investigations into the circumstances surrounding the death of Tyre Nichols continue, Memphians are demanding immediate changes and direct action from city leaders.  

Decarcerate Memphis, an organization working to reform policing in the city, and others are now calling for the city of Memphis to better enforce a 2020 ordinance that would make traffic stop data more detailed and transparent to the public. 

“We can only track information based on citations written or if an arrest was made," Chelsea Glass from Decarcerate Memphis said. "But there are a lot of traffic stops that are happening that are not ending in a citation and they’re not ending in an arrest. But they are ending in harassment, brutalization."

Glass also questioned why Memphis police are allowed to make traffic stops in unmarked cars, a practice she believes is dangerous.   

“People don’t even realize that it’s the police that are stopping them," Glass said. And they’re having these, fight or flight reactions.” 

City Councilman J.B. Smiley Jr. agrees. That’s why he says he will soon introduce an amendment to the 2020 city ordinance that will not only allow traffic stops to be reported but will track, in more detail, use of force complaints and other misconduct by MPD officers.

“That transparency portal will require misuse of body-worn cameras to be reported," councilman Smiley said. "Excessive force complaints to be reported and the end result is the dashboard we currently have. But that’s not mandatory." 

Councilman Smiley says the main goal moving forward is making this system mandatory for MPD. 

"Take it a step further, that provides more detailed information to the people," Smiley said. "Because we need to know what’s happening and what officers are being accused of and figure out how we can root out any bad apples among our Memphis Police Department.” 

He's hopeful if the measure is approved - the portal’s records would be reported to the city council on a semi-annual basis, breaking down that information by gender, race, location, and even cause.  

“That information is important so that we can stop this type of tragic murder going forward," councilman Smiley said. "We do not need to see this in our community ever again.”  

Councilman Smiley also talked about the city’s Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board (CLERB). He says while there’s one in place it doesn’t have any true power to hold MPD accountable because the board doesn’t have the power to subpoena law enforcement officials.

Councilman Smiley argues statewide are what have stripped this review board and others across the state of that power to hold law enforcement officials more accountable.

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