TN House Passes Bill Banning Community Review Boards’ Subpoena Power

Local News

The Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board (CLERB) in Memphis has been active for the last eight years, but members of CLERB say they don’t have the subpoena power it takes to access witnesses, evidence, and officers.

A bill moving through the Tennessee state legislature would make it even harder.

CLERB was developed as an independent agency to investigate claims of police misconduct filed by citizens.

At Thursday’s bi-monthly CLERB meeting there some frustrated board members.

“The City of Memphis made an ordinance several years ago and we decided this was important to us.  

Casey Bryant is the chair of CLERB.

The board’s job is to keep police accountable. Thursday Tennessee State House leaders took a step to keep subpoena power out of the hands of community review boards like CLERB.

“What do we say to the grand jury when we create a community board that has the same apparent authority that they have,” said Rep. Mike Carter of Ootewah.

Memphis Police Association President Mike Williams had no comment regarding the house passing of the bill but has long opposed CLERB being able to directly subpoena officers.

“It would be really amazing if we could get police to come in and make their testimony,” said Bryant.

She says subpoena power would balance out the story.

“There is just a lot of information we’re left wanting to know and that is the side of the police officer,” said Bryant.

Right now, CLERB has to ask to ask City Council to subpoena an officer.

Paul Garner of the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center says indirect subpoena power hasn’t worked yet.

The board has been waiting on a subpoena since last year.

“Where is the City Council on Mr. Walker’s complaint that they requested a subpoena on back in May,” said Garner.

The Senate version of the police oversight board bill does allow limited subpoena powers and is currently in committee.

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