MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - It takes a quarter of a billion dollars each year to operate the Memphis Police Department, and the rallying cry from many protesters in the way of George Floyd’s death is “Defund the Police.”
They want part of the MPD’s $260 million annual operating budget redirected into different services to help the disadvantaged in the city. But the protesters who met with Mayor Jim Strickland on Wednesday, June 10th, said that option isn’t on the table right now.
In Downtown Memphis on South Main Wednesday night, Amber Sherman organized a block party to start a discussion about defunding the Memphis Police Department, reallocating some of MPD’s budget and investing it in the community.
"It's not necessary for them to have that much money in their budget,” Sherman told WMC Action News 5. "Crime would go down and it'd be a deterrent if you actually fund the real root cause of crime, which is, you know, social and economic inequality, food deserts, and not having a good education."
Protest leaders Devante Hill and Frank Gotti just wrapped up their second meeting with Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and Police Director Mike Rallings. Their conversation with city leaders, they said, did not include defunding the police.
“We don’t need such a strong and militarized police department,” Hill said, "but I think we're in a phase right now where we can have a conversation about restructuring the policies and procedures and practices of MPD versus going right into defunding the police officers."
In a statement released earlier in the day, Mayor Jim Strickland said “I’m opposed to defunding our police department. I believe cutting funding from the Memphis Police Department is unwise. And frankly, it’s out of touch with the majority of city residents.”
The mayor is scheduled to meet two more times with local activists. Hill sees their fight for change going all the way to capitol hill in Nashville.
"Restructure and reshape Memphis on a local level first,” said Hill. “We'll attack the systemic problems on a state level next. So, we're going to deal with the battle right here in front of us to make sure that black people are free."
Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris, Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner and local clergy are also taking part in the meetings with protesters. Hill says making adjustments to CLERB, the Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board, was a major focus of Wednesday’s talks.