Crime in Memphis

This week the Shelby County Commission considers two ordinances drafted by a police reform group and sponsored by Commissioner Britney Thornton.

The first is an ordinance “to request that the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office disbands and discontinues future use of all Sheriff’s Office specialized units and task forces and ends participation in multi-jurisdictional and multi-agency task forces.”

The second is an ordinance “requesting the Shelby County Sheriff to: 1) ban biased traffic stops and the use of pretextual traffic stops for low-level violations; 2) limit searches, questioning, and the use of unmarked vehicles; and 3) bar surveillance as an alternative to pretextual traffic stops.”

Neither ordinance would appear to have force beyond making a suggestion to the Shelby County Sheriff, who is separately elected.

However, the Memphis area remains in the grip of a crime crisis, and these suggestions present a risk of signaling that law enforcement should back away from strategic efforts to ensure public safety.


How we act

In recent days we have seen the Memphis Police Department, the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and other law enforcement agencies and partners act swiftly to locate those responsible for the violence that has gripped the City of Memphis.

These heroes deserve our enduring gratitude for the incredible way in which they took coordinated action.

However, these tragic events have also brought to light additional challenges we face as a community when it comes to public safety. We have seen violent offenders being released early, only to return to criminal behavior. We have discovered a new backlog in processing evidence, added to a trial backlog. And we have observed an intense need for additional resources and reforms in the criminal justice system.

The public demands action.