DOJ resumes review of MPD after receiving missing document - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

DOJ resumes review of MPD after receiving missing document

(Source: WMC Action News 5) (Source: WMC Action News 5)
MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) -

After receiving a missing document, the Department of Justice resumed its review of the Memphis Police Department.

Friday morning, DOJ's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services announced it would end its review of MPD. Despite Memphis Police Department publicly saying it wanted help from the Department of Justice, the DOJ said MPD missed multiple deadlines required to get their help.

COPS Office released the following statement Friday morning:

“The Department of Justice’s COPS Office will no longer proceed with the collaborative reform process with the City of Memphis and Memphis Police Department. The COPS Office has made other technical assistance and training resources available to the Memphis Police Department, and looks forward to exploring those options with representatives of the city and police department. The COPS Office appreciates the leadership of MPD and the City of Memphis for requesting assistance from the Department of Justice and supports their efforts as they continue to move forward and advance community policing and strengthen relationships in their community.”

City of Memphis released a statement Friday afternoon, saying they were shocked by the DOJ's decision and had been in constant communication with their department:

“As promised, Mayor Strickland signed that MOA this morning. We are shocked by the statement released by the COPS program. We have been in constant contact with members of the DOJ and COPS program since October, and have worked in good faith on this collaborative process. We can only attribute this to a miscommunication, and we are ready to move forward with the COPS program.”

Communications Officer Ursula Madden added that Chief Legal Officer Bruce McMullen confirmed that he and U.S. Attorney Larry Laurenzi agreed to a compromise that Mayor Jim Strickland would sign the memorandum of agreement on March 3. 

DOJ then issued a second statement, saying they received a signed memorandum of agreement from the City of Memphis and MPD, which would allow them to continue with the collaborative reform process:

“The Department of Justice’s COPS Office previously announced its intention to withdraw from the collaborative reform process in Memphis because it had not received a signed memorandum of agreement (MOA), which is a requirement of the collaborative reform process. The COPS Office is now in receipt of a signed MOA from the City of Memphis and the Memphis Police Department. The COPS Office is pleased to proceed with collaborative reform and applauds the City of Memphis and Memphis Police Department for their leadership. The COPS Office looks forward to a productive engagement and commends Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings for his commitment to community policing, organizational transformation, and improved police-community trust.”

Still, some residents were concerned with the delay in paperwork.

"How long does it take to get the paperwork together?" Pastor Steven Bradley, a representative for Black Lives Matter Memphis, asked.

After protesters shutdown the Interstate 40 bridge in 2016, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland along with MPD Director Mike Rallings called for the DOJ to collaborate with the department on how MPD could better serve the community. Strickland said the bridge shutdown was just one of multiple events that caused him and other Memphis leaders to seek outside assistance.

MPD and DOJ announced a comprehensive review of MPD in October 2016. The review will provide a comprehensive analysis of departmental policies, practices, training, and community interactions.

DOJ said the Office of Community Oriented Police Services (COPS) will review the department, release initial findings about the department and it's policies, and then work hand-in-hand with MPD for 18 months to address ways for MPD to better serve the community. 

COPS is a program that is relatively new, but it has shown promising results in several large cities.

The program will not cost Memphis taxpayers an extra dime. It is funded by the federal government.

Regardless of the miscommunication, Black Lives Matter members and community leaders said the review of MPD needs to be a top priority.

"The DOJ should have said we are going to step in regardless if the application is ready," Bradley said.

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