Debate over law enforcement consolidation begins - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Kontji Anthony

Debate over law enforcement consolidation begins

Shelby County commissioners argued over a proposal to consolidate Memphis Police and the Shelby County Sheriff's Department at a tension-filled meeting Wednesday.


Tension filled the Shelby County Commission chamber as the meeting began, with Sheriff Mark Luttrell sitting on one side, and Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin on the other.

The man in the middle, Commissioner Mike Carpenter, submitted a resolution to merge the Shelby County Sheriff's Department and Memphis Police Department under one director.

"It would require lots of public input, several votes from the County Commission and City Council, and ultimately a charter change to change the duties of the sheriff," Carpenter said.

Sheriff Luttrell told the task force he felt Carpenter politicized the process by releasing the proposed resolution first to Action News 5.

The task force's co-chair, Memphis City Councilman Jack Sammons, put an abrupt end to Luttrell's criticism.

"Sheriff, I've asked you to give comments about what you've heard today, and not to make criticism of the chair, and I'd ask you to please focus on the report that's before you," Sammons said.

"I don't have a paid PR professional in my office working for me," Carpenter later said. "So, frankly, what this is called is 'getting out in front of the story,' making sure I got the key points of this out before it's picked apart."

 Godwin said the exact time he got the report was not an issue.

"I didn't think a whole lot about it. I just thought it was a starting point," he said. "That's all I viewed it as."

 The task force will meet in two weeks to resume the discussion.

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