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Memphis police chief meets with President Biden to discuss rising crime

Published: Jul. 12, 2021 at 7:12 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 13, 2021 at 4:58 AM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Memphis Police Chief C.J. Davis met with President Joe Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland at the White House Monday to talk about efforts to reduce violent crime in Memphis.

Davis was among a group of law enforcement leaders and elected officials from across the country who met with the president, as the White House steps up its effort to help cities get control of violent crime, which tends to increase in summer months.

“I come from a city that is experiencing gun violence disproportionately in black and brown communities,” Davis said after the meeting.

The meeting was closed to the public.

Before the meeting began, Biden spoke out his plan to combat violent crime.

“We recognize that we have to come together to fulfill the first responsibility of democracy and to keep each other safe,” said Biden.

A key part of the president’s plan lets cities use federal COVID-19 funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to address crime.

Memphis plans to use some of its funding to beef up its gun violence intervention program. The city also plans to hire and train more police officers and pay for overtime.

Chiraag Bains serves as special assistant to the president for Criminal Justice and Guns Policy.

“The president believes and studies show that more police do lead to greater public safety,” said Bains. “We have seen a decrease in the number of police officers, including in Memphis, over the course of the pandemic.”

WMC Action News 5 asked Bains how the White House plans to balance encouraging cities to hire more police officers with calls from progressive groups to reform the police and redirect money to other programs.

“The president thinks that we need to address violence. We need to address it today. We need to address it in a comprehensive way,” said Bains. “He also believes that we need police reform and there’s nothing incompatible with those two approaches.”

Davis also said balance is needed.

“We have to find balance,” Davis said. “We can’t continue to arrest crime away. We need to get guns off the street, hold people accountable, and ensure that our communities get the kind of protection that they need.”

Bains says to Biden, tackling crime is not just a matter of public safety, but public health and racial equity, since gun violence disproportionately impacts black and brown communities.

“It’s an issue for everyone,” said Bains. “This is really an American problem. We’ve got to deal with it together as a country. The front line is at the local level and the president is interested in giving resources and tools to police chiefs, to community advocates, and to city officials as they deal with this critical issue.”

Memphis is also part of a collaborative group of 15 jurisdictions that the White House is working with over the next year and a half to address and reduce violent crime.

For more on Biden’s plan to tackle crime, click here.

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