Taking closer look at proposed Memphis Police reform ordinances

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Since George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis in 2020, the city council and police department there have passed more than 20 measures.

In Memphis, one month after the death of Tyre Nichols, Memphis City Council is working to do the same.

Since 1994, the Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board, or CLERB, has worked to look at cases of police misconduct within the Memphis Police Department (MPD).

“If a citizen has filed a misconduct complaint against an officer, that complaint is taken either through her or through internal affairs,” said James Kirkwood, the chairman of CLERB and a former colonel with MPD.

He said that the rest of the board members have backgrounds in law, healthcare, education and community activism.

“The beautiful thing, that’s a good thing,” Kirkwood said. “Not everyone has law enforcement backgrounds.”

On Tuesday, the council members voted to pass the first reading of Ordinance 5851, which would give CLERB more of a role.

The council also approved the first reading of two ordinances — with one that would cut down on pre-textual traffic stops overall and another that would ensure that only marked law enforcement vehicles can make routine traffic stops.

They’re both provisions that council chairman Martavius Jones voted in favor of. He said they’re meant to help Memphians feel safer.

“So if you just have a plain white or plain black Charger and someone pulls you over, I think a regular resident or citizen of the City of Memphis, they want to be and they want to be insured that the person that’s pulling them over is a legitimate police officer for something that’s a routine traffic stop,” Jones said.

Now FOX13 wanted to know what other cities, like Minneapolis, are doing about similar issues.

In 2021, the Minneapolis Police Department added limitations to pre-textual traffic stops in its reform policies, saying that officers cannot stop cars with expired tags or an item dangling from a rearview mirror.

If passed, Memphis City Council said they will also have to define what falls under routine traffic stops.

In 2022, the head of Minneapolis’s civilian oversight group resigned after frustration with not being able to properly work with the olice department. Now this all came after the death of George Floyd.

For Kirkwood, he said both the oversight of CLERB and the other measures in Memphis could potentially save lives.

“There are some wolves in sheep’s clothing,” he said. “Come and get the badge and go out and do great harm and embarrass and stain the reputation and hard work that so many good police officers are out there doing every day to rid that stain, to rid that world out of that mess, you need some oversight.”

Again, these ordinances have to be reviewed, discussed, then passed through two more sessions before they can become official.

To see the full list of resolutions and ordinances, you can look at the Feb. 7 add-on agenda here: https://bit.ly/3XmRpIm.