MPD no longer paying overtime to patrol Confederate monuments

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Around-the-clock patrols dedicated to two Memphis parks is now a thing of the past.

Memphis Police Department spent thousands of dollars over the last few months paying overtime to officers to patrol Health Science Park and Mississippi River Park--the locations of Confederate monuments dedicated to Nathan Bedford Forrest and Jefferson Davis, respectively.

That overtime was approved in order to "keep peace in the parks," according to MPD. The department was not able to provide exactly how much extra money was spent on the patrols.

Now that the monuments are gone and the parks no longer belong to the City of Memphis, MPD is no longer paying officers to patrol the park at all hours of the day.

"Our police resources can be better allocated," Tennessee Representative G.A. Hardaway (D-Memphis) said. "Sometimes there were two squad cars here--with the crime rate we have in this city, little old ladies getting hit in the head trying to go shopping, drive-by shootings."

MPD said the officers will now return to regular patrols, but the department said the SkyCop cameras will remain in the parks temporarily.

The patrols began soon after fatal riots in Charlottesville, Virginia. But the battle over Confederate monuments had been going on for years.

"We wanted them down then, and of course we lost the fight then," Shelby County Commissioner Walter Bailey said.

Bailey led protests as early as 2005 to urge government leaders to remove the Confederate monuments.

Memphis city leaders petitioned the Tennessee Historical Commission (THC) several times in recent years for a waiver to remove the statues and was denied.

"I don't think anything was going to happen positive with THC," THC member Pastor Keith Norman said.

Norman sits on the THC board and said he never believed Memphis would get enough votes from THC to allow the city to remove the statues.

"We never had objective conversations surrounding this and it was almost like it was a brick wall from the start," Norman said.

Wednesday, it all happened so fast. Ultimately, Memphis City Council voted to sell the park to a nonprofit who then decided to take down the Confederate statues.

"I can honestly say it's a wise choice made at the right time," Norman said. "Whether it is politically motivated or otherwise."

Either way, Norman said there was also a big push by many who wanted the statues down before MLK50--the ceremonies set to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination.

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