Memphis Police Chief Davis tells oversight board cop complaints down
(Photo: Memphis Police Department Facebook page)
On Thursday, Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “C.J.” Davis told members of a police-oversight board that there were fewer aggressive interactions between police and citizens in the last year, possibly due to the pandemic.
“Over the last couple of years, the climate had a lot to do with interactions with law officers, whether it was COVID where we didn’t have as many interactions with law enforcement, or whether it was the temperament of what was going on around the country had a lot to do with officer’s interactions with community members,” said Davis.
At the same time, Memphis police experienced a 2.2% increase in internal and external investigations between 2020 to 2021. Police initiated 139 internal cases in 2020 and 142 in 2021.
Three categories of police complaints declined over the past two years. In 2020 there were 52 cases of excessive force, compared to 20 in 2021, 102 cases of personal conduct in 2020 compared to 82 in 2021, and 55 cases of cameras turned off in 2020 compared to 23 in 2021.
Courtesy complaints, or perceptions of rude or unprofessional behavior, increased from 185 in 2020 to 194 in 2021.
“I don’t have empirical data to say what [this] meant. All we know is that we didn’t stop as many people in 2020. We didn’t have near as many encounters, and we know that does have an impact on the number of complaints we typically receive,” said Davis.
Davis also addressed the department’s recent efforts to recruit 2,500 police officers using an aggressive recruitment campaign by allowing potential recruits to be tested immediately. To reach that number of police officers, recruitmenting will need to expand beyond Memphis, said Davis, noting the controversies of bringing in outsiders to police local communities.
But efforts have concentrated more on attracting young people to the police force and community members who are able to meet the needs of the public. The department has a Hispanic and LBGTQ liaison to reach communities which may have language and social barriers.
“We really needed to think outside the box. How do we attract young people who want to be a part of what change looks like with the new era of policing, and we have to meet them where they are,” said Davis.
Davis is also seeking to bring in potentially 50 retired police officers into the force.
“Many of our retired officers still bring value, they have experience, they want to work. Right now we’re just trying to navigate around some of the ordinance issues, and that may come to council at some point, but there are several individuals who want to come back and help us with community engagement,” said Davis.
In 2011, Memphis experienced the lowest crime rates in recent history while having the most police officers on the force. Because of this, Davis hopes to recreate this scenario and deter crime by having a visible police presence.
“We are alarmed just like everyone else is when things happen. Don’t let these uniforms divide us,” she said.
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