by James Coleman —
A resolution adopting the recommendations, including setting the number of police officers, of the Public Safety Task Force was approved on a 9-1 vote by the Memphis City Council during Tuesday’s (Dec. 15) meeting.
The proposals came at the request of Mayor Jim Strickland’s office.
The task force, led by Councilwoman Rhonda Logan, includes representatives from the City Council, the police and fire departments, police union members, activists and the city’s chief human resources officer.
The recommended strength of the police department was 2,500 officers. The plan sets guidance for recruitment, hiring, training and retention. There are currently 2,100 officers on the force.
The number was settled upon after a pair of studies suggested 2,800 and 2,400 officers, respectively. The former was deemed excessive for the city’s needs and could leave it vulnerable to accusations of over-policing.
A study being conducted by the Deliotte consulting firm and commissioned by the mayor’s office is looking at the makeup of police shifts.
The costs of additional officers are expected to be covered in the current budget.
The plan also would try to transition officers to civilian roles and bring back COACT, or community action units. Disbanded in 2011, 16 units were shut down after they were found to be improperly maintained.
It also calls for the creation of a partnership with Shelby County Schools to engage youth about public safety and its career options, as well as “True Blue Tuesdays.”
An audit of the Division of Police Services psychological test also is in the plan. Its findings would be presented to the council’s Safety and Homeland Security Committee. Paid time off for mental therapy for officers would be required as well.
Public safety training hours would be increased, as would training in conflict resolution and de-escalation tactics, such as verbal judo and cultural awareness.
Police ethics, just and fair policing, gang awareness through social media, community policing, police corruption and civil rights violations would also be addressed.
Councilwoman Jamita Swearengen, during the council’s executive session, proposed holding the item back, arguing that the process hadn’t been transparent. She said some of her constituents had questions that remained unanswered.
Among this group is MICAH (Memphis Interfaith Coalition for Action and Hope), which had called for the vote to be delayed.
“Without sharing his vision publicly, the constituents feel that it hasn’t been fair to them or the council,” Swearengen said.
Councilman Worth Morgan objected to a delay.
Councilman Chase Carlisle, added, “It seems like a bizarre accusation that the process wasn’t transparent when the mayor was responsible for a task force that we put together and selected the members and had open meetings on. That committee submitted recommendations to this body. This body then discussed it and voted on committee two weeks ago.”
Carlisle, Morgan, Swearengen, Jeff Warren, Patrice Robinson, J. Ford Canale, Frank Colvett, Edmond Ford Sr. and Cheyenne Johnson voted in favor of the resolution. Martavius Jones voted against it.