Shelby Co. commissioner proposes merger of MPD, Sheriff's Office - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Shelby Co. commissioner proposes merger of MPD, Sheriff's Office

(SOURCE: WMC Action News 5) (SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)
(SOURCE: WMC Action News 5) (SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)

A proposal for a merger between Memphis police officers and Shelby County deputies is a discussion that has many talking.

Shelby County Commission Chairman Melvin Burgess proposed the controversial idea that would bring city and county government much closer together.

"Let's explore. Let's start talking about it," Burgess said. "Let's have some conversation on how do we make our citizens safe."

Burgess said MPD is understaffed and people all over the city are calling for more police presence.

Meanwhile, the Sheriff's Office is fully staffed, but doesn't have jurisdiction to cover certain areas of town.

"How can we be stronger? How can we bring a stronger force to work together to have a really good police department or sheriff's department, whatever comes out of it," Burgess said.

Burgess knows plenty of people fear it will lead to a total merger of city and county government, but those who support the plan said it is at least worth giving it a look.

"Sure. It's worth looking at," Nancy Deal said. "I mean, anything we can do to help ourselves is worth a shot."

"I say it's a good thing. We need the police officers, we need the sheriffs," Adrian Tabor said. "Put them together, something might happen good."

Some are not certain a merger would improve safety, but they said it would improve efficiency.

"I'm not sure about whether it would make us safer or not," Berry Fowler said. "I do definitely think it would make it more efficient as far as money is concerned."

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said he is focused on recruiting and retaining the current officers and making Memphis safer. He said a merger is not something, at this time, that they have discussed or are looking at.

"If we are asked to join in that discussion, we certainly would," Strickland said. "It's not something that's on our radar screen or that we're actively pursuing."

Burgess said he sees it like a piano. He said Memphis and Shelby County have been playing different tunes for too long.

"When you play just the black keys, it's not going to be in tune," Burgess said. "It's not even going to sound right. When you just play the white keys, it's not gonna sound right. But, when you play them together, and we all work together, that's when harmony exists."

Shelby County currently has a charter that requires the area to have a sheriff. Theoretically, that means the sheriff's office would absorb the police department.

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