Serve and Protect. The words that have for years echoed into the form of reassurance of safety, have for many, manifested itself into nothing but a hollow shell. But does your city, our city, The City of Memphis, truly care about punishing those who go against the very vow that they took?
The answer to some seems to be, for lack of a better word “iffy”. Councilwoman Logan, Chairwoman Swearengen and Chairwoman Robinson are all doing their due diligence in their collective motion to create a Task Force to monitor those men in blue. The minutes for the meeting in which the proposal was initiated recorded “A Task Force to provide the oversight for implementing the best practices for recruiting, hiring, and retaining public safety officers should be created.”
Sounds great right? For years, a city whose racial demographic consists of 63.33% African American, 29.39% White, 1.46% Asian American, 1.57% Native American, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 1.45% from other races, and 1.04% from two or more races, the fear of racial profiling and biases from those who are meant to serve the community in the highest regard is real. So, when a proposal is made to help regulate and dwindle these negative occurrences that arise. . . who wouldn’t jump on the opportunity to do so? The answer for some would be the City of Memphis. But I argue that one committee does care, and has made a vital proposal which has stepped in the right direction for true change.
Now to further clarify for those who consider themselves political aware, yes, the resolution was approved in the minutes. The issue that has been apparent in the political realm though is not the recognition of injustices that take place, but the failure to act on them when they occur. This resolution in particular was also pushed back until March 3rd, 2 weeks later with no additional mention. When the Chairwomen of the city’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee brings a recommendation to the board that will affect the lives of thousands of Memphians, it should become of upmost importance. Instances such as the killing of 20 year old Brandon Webber, where thirty six Memphis police department officers where injured due to an officer involved shooting should immediately come to thought for the board; But it seems that even when highly watched news media outlets such as NPR and CNN recognize such events that the city pushes forward without serious conversation on criminal justice reform. Too often do injustice cases and potential solutions to these issues get pushed back. And now with the overwhelming presence of COVID-19 it seems that March 3rd has been pushed to March 24th, and that even this has been pushed further until future notice. This is why the city council must act when recommendations such as the one Chairwomen Swearengen presented are brought up.
Well, how is the City Council expected to worry about anything other than the present? I’m glad you asked. Though COVID-19 has come to prove that it needs the upmost attention and care, our city council has one thing that affords it the opportunity to accomplish many tasks at once: COMMITTEES. Since the initial recommendation, The Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee has painted some color around the make up and goals for the task force already; implementing members from target communities that can help foster a relationship between the Memphis Police Department and their neighborhoods. This does show progress. Chairwoman Swearengen is quoted referring to one devote member of the community in the creation of a Task Force: “A gentlemen who has been attending the committee meetings and the council meetings is seeking assistance for the community. . .and a relationship with the Frayser community and police department. . . attending with families who have been through hardships” Following this the item is passed unanimously among the committee with the understanding that Chairwoman Swearengen – will recommend someone for the task force committee.
This is great work that our representatives are doing. Implementing an agency whose primary role is relationship building between the City of Memphis and the communities that its officers patrol in is key to the development of trust. Trust is essential as it control perception, a tool that is the primary difference in the potential actions an individual may decide to take. Without it, Officer “accidents” and community rage will continue to be an issue. These problems are important. They must be addressed when they are brought up or I fear that change will never be an option for the City of Memphis. One thing I am certain of however, The Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee will do what it has to do.
“*Photo by Damien Conway, Creative Commons Zero license.” https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/c61a75c1-12b8-4a5e-b05c-45e082995c1c