A petition has been started on change.org to increase the accountability of the Memphis Police Department.
Seeking 1,000 signatures, Jimmy Donlon started the petition to Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and the Memphis City Council this week.
“Police are entrusted with weapons and deadly force when deemed necessary,” the petition reads. “The people of Memphis ask for increased accountability from the Memphis Police Department.”
The petition has three main asks. The first is that police officers begin all encounters by telling civilians that the interaction is being recorded.
By law body cameras are required to be worn and on whenever interacting with the public. MPD’s 2020 handbook (Chapter XIII, Section 15, Page 3) advises that encounters with civilians should begin with this statement by officers, “Ma’am/Sir, I am advising you that our interaction is being recorded,” according to the petition.
However, Donlon said in his experience with MPD, this has not been the case.
“Fear escalates many situations, and this simple statement could keep not all but some interactions from becoming dangerous,” the petition reads. “In the same way Miranda rights must be read to civilians being detained, we ask that this statement be read prior to all other conversation. It is already required by the handbook except when unsafe, impractical or impossible. We only ask that we enforce it.”
The next ask is that police officers’ in-car video (ICV) systems remain on at all times.
The handbook allows for officers to turn the system off if an encounter will take place out of view, but to turn it back on if the incident returns within view of the squad car (Chapter XIII, Section 15, Page 6-7).
But the petition notes that if an incident takes an unexpected turn, there is no time for the officer to turn the system back on.
“The benefit of an ICV is that it provides a third person POV of an interaction rather than a first person POV like the body cameras,” the petition reads. “Cameras increase police accountability to the public, and we firmly believe that if we are trusting police officers with deadly weapons, we should maximize their accountability. The video from the car should not be turned off until the end of the shift.”
Finally, the petition requests that the Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board (CLERB) be empowered to subpoena MPD, review cases simultaneously with the Inspectional Services Bureau (ISB), and discipline MPD.
CLERB is tasked with reviewing and investigating claims from individuals regarding excessive force, improper arrest, and other types of police misconduct.
Currently, CLERB “is virtually powerless if it is unable to subpoena MPD,” asserts the petition. “The board must have access to all resources and footage pertaining to a claim, and the board should not need the permission of the group it seeks to control in order to obtain said resources.”
The ISB, a unit of MPD composed of Internal Affairs and Security squad members, conducts all internal investigations involving police personnel, as well as “other sensitive investigations,” according to the MPD’s website. The unit’s members are hand-selected by the MPD director and are “considered to be highly experienced investigators.”
ISB is currently required to review all cases before CLERB can begin its investigation.
“Although it is good to have internal accountability, the CLERB was created because police officers should answer to the people first and foremost,” reads the petition. “Some people distrust the police and its internal review process because of a long history of conflict.”
The petition asks finally that CLERB be able to directly discipline officers or recommend disciplinary measures to the city council. Currently CLERB can only make disciplinary recommendations to the MPD director.
“If the purpose of the board is to hold the police accountable to the people, the discipline of the officer found at fault should not be decided by anyone affiliated with Memphis Police,” the petition states. “We must have external disciplinary powers for the officers who we are trusting with our lives.”
As of Thursday morning, the petition has garnered 731 signatures.