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'I’m afraid of Memphis now' | Memphians looking for MPD reform at upcoming city council meeting

"We see commissioned officers doing that I think brought home just how impactful this has been on our city. I mean I used to love Memphis, I can’t say that anymore."

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The death of Tyre Nichols in January has reignited the call for change at law enforcement agencies across the country, and the city where that call began is no different.  

Part of the Feb. 7 City Council meeting will focus on police reform at the Memphis Police Department (MPD). City officials are expecting a large turnout of council members, Memphians and activists demanding change.

“This is lawlessness,” says Al Lewis, Memphian and Co-Founder of the Memphis Coalition of Concerned Citizens.  

For decades, Lewis has seen the issue of police brutality across the city, but still says the fact Tyre died from a traffic stop is frightening. 

“We see commissioned officers doing that, I think brought home just how impactful this has been on our city. I mean, I used to love Memphis, I can’t say that anymore, I’m afraid of Memphis now,” says Lewis.

Together with several other Memphians, Lewis is calling for a city-wide effort to change the harmful practices at the Memphis Police Department.

“They occupy and patrol mostly black communities, and so I think the mission needs to be reformed,” says Lewis.

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, the community is expected to tackle potential MPD reform, focusing on protocols, policies and how the department is run overall.  

Topics include requiring MPD to have marked vehicles for traffic stops, investigations into the Police Training Academy and increased data transparency.

Councilman JB Smiley is behind the push for data transparency, hoping upgrades to the current portal can help bring past violations of MPD officers to light.

“How many allegations of excessive force, or issues with body worn cameras, the ultimate disposition, but also race; ethnicity, gender related to those incidents,” Councilman Smiley said.

Other topics council members will bring up will include the potential launch of independent reviews of body camera footage from MPD officers and past complaints of excessive force.

“In the place where Dr. King was assassinated and the place where folks march for rights, I think we have an opportunity and also a moral obligation to move the conversation forward when it comes to civil rights in Memphis,” Councilman Smiley said.

The public safety discussion will take place 9 a.m. Feb. 7 at Memphis City Hall. Members of the Memphis community are encouraged to take part in discussions.

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