I believe that if we are going to see any significant change in crime in America, we are going to have to see some cultural changes, and that doesn’t come from government. It comes from the communities themselves.
I firmly believe that the problem of crime can be solved. However, the government will not and cannot solve it. The people have to solve it – the people who have neighborhoods and who have families.
I will mention just one example along these lines. Probably, the most effective group in fighting gangs around the country has been an organization in Baltimore called “Grandmothers Against Gangs.” When they sight a bunch of kids selling drugs on street corners, they run out with brooms and chase them away. No bureaucracy, no government grants, no political turf battles. Just grannies with brooms taking back their neighborhoods.
I think we should start with addressing the fact that so many of our good officers are leaving as a result of the City Council’s decision to do away with pensions and benefits for our policemen and women.
How can we expect the good officers to stay in Memphis after the council made this decision, when they are being offered jobs in cities that show them respect and honor their commitments? How can we expect to meet recruitment levels when prospective trainees see what has been done to our Men and Women in Blue?
I believe we should maintain a properly staffed police force with a more targeted approach and reinstate employee and retiree benefits. In order to recruit and retain the most-trustworthy candidates, we must provide a competitive compensation package.
We need to regain control of our youth by engaging them in healthy recreational activities, job training opportunities, mentoring partnerships, enforce curfew laws, and work to reform Juvenile Court disciplinary policies.
I’m also a big fan of a boot camp geared for behavioral modification, anger management and life skill classes, to include mandatory guardian participation.
We also need to work with Shelby County Schools System to make schools and community centers once again the hubs in each community.
Finally, I want to address CLERB – the Citizen Law Enforcement Review Board – an independent, non-police Mayoral Agency with the authority to investigate allegations of misconduct filed by citizens against the City of Memphis Police Officers.
I think having some sort of civilian oversight is a great idea, if it is done correctly. With today’s growing distrust of police and to some degree a growing police state, having a review board not only provides the citizens a trustworthy route in which to file complaints but also a way for good officers to be sure that their name is cleared once and for all.
Sure, there are some officers who do not take their responsibility to serve to heart, and who abuse the authority given them in good faith, and those officers don’t need to serve our community.
That being said, I believe the main issue here is restoring trust between the citizens and the police force. If a civilian law enforcement committee could help usher that trust, I say let’s do it.
We, as citizens, need to be able to trust our officers and our officers need to be able to do their jobs without extra stress stemming from a negative community attitude.