Memphis ministers announce support for school police force

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Should the Memphis City Schools system have its own police force?  The superintendent says "yes," but the mayor and police director appear to have a different opinion.  Tuesday, Memphis ministers became part of the debate.

Pastor Grey Grant, Rev. Dwight Montgomery, and Rev. William Owens called a news conference to announce support of MCS Superintendent Kriner Cash's proposal to use school peace officers instead of Memphis police.

"Give him a chance," Owens said. "Don't railroad him out of town!"

The Reverend Dwight Montgomery said there are many good officers, but he hears frequent complaints.

"I know of 15 or 20 off the top of my head where parents called SCLC," Montgomery said.

According to Montgomery, last Thursday narcotics officers told some students to leave Hamilton High School's campus.  Montgomery said a student he mentors encouraged his peers to cooperate, but they all got in trouble.

"Was smacked upside the back of his head, they were handcuffed, taken to Juvenile Court and charged with criminal trespassing," he said.

Montgomery said it might have been a different scenario if the officers were more familiar with the students.

"That peace office would have been trained in intervention and prevention, and first of all, the peace officer would not have told a child standing on campus waiting on his brother that he can't stand on campus," Montgomery said.

Pastor Grey Grant supports Cash's plan to add Family Court, so jail is not the first option.

"In county schools, they don't take them to Juvenile Court," Grant said. "They take them to Family Court, and the administrators in Family Court will decide if this offense is great enough to send them to Juvenile Court."

Owens said a city of children with criminal records hurts the whole community.

"We can turn lives around if we approach them from a position of caring and love," he said.

Currently, schools in Tennessee cannot have their own peace force. The pastors are going to Nashville to back a bill to change that.  They added that this was not a protest, saying some of them heavily backed A C Wharton for mayor.

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