Changes to Beale Street safety implemented 1 year after MPD officer's death

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - One year ago, a Memphis police officer was run over and killed as he tried to get others to safety.

Officer Verdell Smith was killed while on patrol after police said Justin Welch, 21, ran over him at the intersection of B.B. King Boulevard and Beale Street.

There have been several changes on Beale Street after Smith was killed.

Memphis Police Association President Mike Williams said a year after Smith's death, the focus on safety is more intense.

"It's just a blessing that we have not lost any more officers," Williams said. "We haven't had any killed in the line of duty since then - I think that's miraculous."

Memphis Police Department officials said more security officers and the addition of a cover charge to go on Beale has changed the level of safety on Beale since Smith was killed.

"Hopefully they're going to continue to put measures in place that will put the safety of the citizens, the safety of the tourists, and the safety of the officers at the front first and foremost," Williams said.

City Council is working to come up with a Beale Street Task Force to discuss more ways to keep people safe on the world famous street. The Council hopes the task force will find an alternative to handle crowd control other than paying the $5 cover charge just to get on the street, which begins Saturday.

Williams said there are some things you can't plan for.

"If someone wants to commit a crime, they're going to commit a crime and regardless of the safety mechanisms you put in place a lot of times it's going to be unavoidable," Williams said.

But one thing Williams said Officer Smith lived for and died for is something that anyone can do to help save lives - looking out for each other.

"Even as he lived, he was always trying to help people; he was always trying to be involved," Williams said.

City Council leaders said they are speaking with leaders in New Orleans to try and model their Bourbon Street security plan.

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