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MPD chief of police discusses use of force policy

Updated: Apr. 20, 2021 at 7:38 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - In the last year, the Memphis Police Department has updated officer procedures to reduce the use of force.

And Tuesday we asked the new police chief, Cerelyn Davis, about her policies on the use of force.

“We want to take care of our city,” said Davis. “We want to make sure that it’s done in a way where we don’t have encounters, violent encounters, with police.”

Davis also spoke with WMC Action News 5 on her approach toward the use of force in police departments, an issue that made headlines after the death of George Floyd.

Davis saw a reduction of use of force complaints during her time as Chief in Durham, North Carolina. She told us this afternoon it’s because her officers understood her philosophy of “do no harm.”

“Aside from violent crime, our use of force numbers for our department were down, as well, and complaints from citizens and resident about use of force are down, as well,” said Mark-Anthony Middleton, of the Durham City Council

Middleton helped select Davis to be the Chief in Durham in 2016 and saw a reduction of violent crime in her five years as chief there.

“She did something with lessening checkpoints around the city, as well,” said Middleton. “The morale of the department, the partnership with the community, all of that stuff feeds into and creates an ecosystem where crime can go down.”

Memphis has adopted and updated several policies to reduce the number of violent interactions with officers, including adding teeth to a duty to intervene and reporting improper conduct policy.

Davis says she wants to go a step further and have every officer properly trained in crisis intervention.

“So that when they come out on the street, they already know how to de-escalate,” said Davis. “They already know how to identify mental illness-type cases. They already know how to avoid physical confrontation.”

Davis also said she wants to take a look at MPD’s resources, to see where they can be best used and where they can be improved in the city, in hopes of further developing relationships in the community.

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