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Memphis activist group says MPD chief silent on their demands, still pushing for police reform

Decarcerate Memphis gave MPD, CJ Davis 100 days to meet 10 demands related to police reform.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Decarcerate Memphis isn't backing down on holding Memphis Police Chief CJ Davis accountable. Decarcerate Memphis is a grassroots coalition with about 40 committee members and has more than 300 supporters. 

The group is focused on criminal justice reform. When Davis became MPD chief in June, they sent an open letter demanding 10 things they want to see done before she reaches 100 days in her new role.

September 27 marked Chief Davis' 100th day and Chelsea Glass, a member of the group, said their demands have not been met.

Davis had a sit down with the group in August, but they haven't heard from her since then. Glass said 100 days is more than enough time to see new policies at work.

"It's in her hands to make these changes," Glass said. "No matter how open you are to a conversation, it really doesn't matter if you aren't willing to follow through on these things."

Glass said Davis listened to their demands, and it seemed like a successful meeting. But, Davis hasn’t responded to the group in two months, members are losing faith in Davis.

Here are the group's 10 requests for the first 100 days of Davis' administration.

  • End the department's participation in the Federal 1033 program, a way to obtain military sourced equipment, and similar programs, and return or destroy equipment obtained through these programs.   End the department's cooperation with Federal Task Force Operations.
  • Stop costs associated with obtaining body camera footage and records requested by a complainant, victim, or arrestee. Make all department policies, as well as a current and past memorandum of understandings and any agreements with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies publicly available online and upon request.
  • Order a review of the department's and internal affairs' complaint process and censor civilians’ personal information when officers are notified of a complaint filed against them. Allow all civilians the ability to file a complaint 24/7 by fax, email, phone, or in person, and be allowed an advocate on hand when filing and being interviewed.
  • Release a timeline for all officers to receive training on crisis intervention, sexual assault trauma, Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and victimization, as well as cultural sensitivity training for all officers, specifically concerning disabilities, mental health, homelessness, and gender nonconformity.
  • Stop ticketing and citations for all parking or driving-related fees not related to a moving violation, like broken tail lights, window tinting, and loud music, which would result in preventing a person from receiving a driver’s license. Deprioritize citations and arrests for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.
  • Hold monthly meetings for public input and inquiries related to police matters in which the police chief and representatives from the department are available to answer questions. Allow for anonymous public comment and questions. Meetings should be held in accessible locations that are not a police precinct or police station and include online accessibility.
  • End the use of militarized police training — like training characterized by Israeli Defense Forces — equipment and response to protests. Stop racially biased, data-driven, and surveillance-based policing, also known as Blue-CRUSH. Review the department’s relationship with federal task force agencies and provide clear data on how these agencies operate, and outcomes from local operations conducted by federal police task forces.
  • Begin implementing “early-warning” systems to identify officers most likely to have negative public and police interactions by tracking rules of conduct violations, unjustified use of force, civilian or officer injury, and complaints about uncivil officer behavior, as well as indicators of stressful or traumatic incidents, by tracking the commonness of response to incidents such as suicide and domestic-violence calls.
  • Prohibit officers from inquiring about individuals’ immigration status. Put in place a new anti-racial profiling policy that would include an annual study of the rate of officer contact by race and a review of disparity in official charges by race.
  • Review and respond to past recommendations by CLERB that were rejected by the former police director. Fully cooperate with CLERB requests for documents, records and officer testimony. Work to thoughtfully respond to and incorporate recommendations made by CLERB.

"As far as I know, we haven't seen any plan of action to actually create the reforms that we were discussing and that is disappointing especially because she was touted as a reformist," Glass said.

Davis has advocated for police reform in the past. She testified in the U.S. Senate after George Floyd's death about changing policing strategies. But with no word on what's changing or when, Glass said they are done waiting for MPD's transparency. While continuing to reach out to Davis for answers, they are doing their part to make sure the community is safe. 

On October 16 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Douglass Park,  Decarcerate Memphis will hold a free brake light clinic. This initiative is aimed to prevent police interactions. 

"We can't arrest our way out of these issues," Glass said. It's going to take other efforts and some creativity and direct financial investment into the communities that are adversely affected.” 

We've reached out to MPD for an interview with chief Davis but were told she wouldn't be available until early November. Glass said Daivis’ silence will not stop the group from taking action. She said Decarcerate Memphis is planning to go in front of city council with their demands.

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