Michael Heidingsfield, leader of the Memphis Crime Commission, narrowly escaped injury and death many times in his 14 month special mission to Iraq. He's back fighting the war on crime in Memphis now with a fresh, new perspective on our fight.
If you click on the video link on this page you can watch amateur video, recorded in Baghdad, at 5:28 AM on March 9th of last year. The video was made by terrorists who wanted to document what happened when they loaded a garbage truck with 3,000 lbs of high explosives and drove it to that U-S headquarters in the distance.
Michael Heidingsfield slept 166 feet from this. "It was then and is now I think the largest vehicle-borne improvised explosion of the war. We had 48 casualties that day," he told us.
Heidingsfield photographed the aftermath of that attack and others in his 14-month mission to Iraq. The veteran police chief told the Memphis Rotary Club this week he went to Baghdad to help train Iraqi police forces who risked their lives to serve.
"How are the Iraqi police today? They are marginal. Let's be absolutely and bluntly honest," he said. "They are marginal. But they are the sole barrier to disorder in the country."
Now back on the job in Memphis, Heidingsfield has his hands full with the city's rising crime rate. "Crime here is about opportunity and violence. Now, you see that in Iraq but the rationale is different."
Heidingsfield says crime is up in Memphis, in part, because violent criminals convicted in the 1980's are being released from prison and, he says, "for some reasons we can't explain today, the gang influence today is greater than it was before."
But Heidingsfield is optimistic the degree of Memphis crime can be lessened by efforts like Operation Blue Crush, which targets crime hot spots and careful coordination of police resources.
You can hear Michael Heidingsfield's entire speech to Memphis Rotary as well as our interview with him by clicking on the appropriate links on this page.