The Memphis City Council is considering an overhaul of the Citizen’s Law Enforcement Review Board (CLERB).
Councilmen Kemp Conrad and Worth Morgan introduced an ordinance Tuesday that would change the Citizen’s Law Enforcement Review Board to the Council Law Enforcement Review Board, replacing the board’s current nine members with the 13 city council members.
Currently, per city ordinance, CLERB consists of the chairperson of the city council’s public safety committee, chairperson of the Shelby County Commission’s law enforcement committee, two law enforcement officers or member with experience in criminal justice, a medical officer, a clergy member, an attorney, and two citizens at-large.
But, Morgan told a city council committee Tuesday that he believes the purpose of CLERB is more safely placed in the hands of the city council.
CLERB, tasked with investigating allegations of misconduct by the Memphis Police Department, was first established by city ordinance in 1994, but was inactive between 2001 and 2015.
Morgan said the goal of the board is a “good one, great one,” but CLERB has been “stuck in no-man's land” over the past four years.
“It was a temporary solution to a long-term problem,” Morgan said. “We are a board of 13 civilians. We have subpoena power, tools, and relationships for when a serious incident comes up.”
Morgan noted that after the officer-involved shooting of Martavious Banks last year, the council’s discussions surrounding MPD policy and body cams were “more productive than CLERB’s in the past four years.”
Changing up the personnel on the board is primarily meant to make CLERB more affordable, Morgan said, citing the near $1 million that has been budgeted for the board over the past four years. The councilman did not specify how exactly the switch would save money.
Morgan said he hopes “people aren’t attached” to the civilian piece of CLERB, but instead to the goals and intentions of the board, which ultimately is an extra layer of oversight.
Virginia Wilson, administrator for CLERB, disagreed saying that CLERB doesn’t have an “absorbent budget” and she believes the make-up should remain the same.
“I think citizens would like to see CLERB continue to operate in the manner that it is,” Wilson said “We are working tirelessly.”
The committee’s discussion of the ordinance was cut short due to time constraints, but the council will return to it at its next meeting on November 19th.