In a joint news conference Wednesday morning, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton and Police Director Toney Armstrong announced the formation of a committee to investigate the policies and procedures of the police department.
Citing recent well publicized problems and a need to improve operations, the committee will focus on three areas of police operations:
The committee will be made up of Keith Norman, Pastor of First Baptist Church-Broad; Billy Garrett, retired colonel and former commander of Union Station; and Bishop Mayes, retired colonel and former commander of Old Allen Station.
During the initial phase, additional individuals may be consulted.
Rev. Norman, Garrett and Mayes assume the unique roles of serving as paid consultants to a Memphis Police Department whose image has been undermined by a string of police officers behaving badly cases. Their initial assignment will be a two month examination of current MPD policies and procedures regarding ethics, training, disciplinary actions and level of support given officers possibly suffering from on the job pressures.
Norman is a preacher and community activist who engages in both with passion.
"We are recognizing that we are truly one," he said. "No black, no white, no male / female. All destinies are in the words of Dr. King are inextricably intertwined. We are one."
Norman teams with two retired police officers with a combined 62 years of service and stellar reputations as straight-shooters.
"I think it's a good combination who knows MPD from the ground up," Mr. Wharton said. "That won't send up sending me some big bill just learning North Memphis from South Memphis."
"We didn't want to bring someone in that we'd have to train," added Director Armstrong. "One on police work, two on the Memphis Police Department."
During a City Hall news conference on Friday, Mayor Wharton stressed the new effort to return public trust back to the department shouldn't be classified as a "witchhunt" to weed out those few who've transformed the familiar motto of "to protect and serve" to "relieved of duty with pay."
"We're not working on the presumption that we got a bunch of bad cops and we're going to find them," the mayor said. "We're working on the presumption we have a bunch of good cops and we want to keep them that way. Whatever it takes."
Director Armstrong, who some felt was humiliated by remarks Mayor Wharton made about MPD's inefficiency at a September news conference, appeared positive in welcoming the consultants and their ability to take a complete overview of police operations.
"I meet with our staff and they say, 'You know what? We really need to take a serious look at this or really take a serious look at that,'" Memphis's police director said. "But, you get so often plain busy playing the game, you don't get a an opportunity to do a lot of coaching."
However, the choice of Norman, is interesting, considering he'll have to get a crash course about the inner workings of the MPD in order to eventually give effective input.
When questioned about Norman's lack of police savvy, Mayor Wharton voiced his support by stressing what could be Norman's chief attribute - his honesty.
"I'm confident he will call it the way he sees it," the mayor said. "That's why he was brought in here. He values his standing the community and would not jeopardize that in doing anything other than telling us just the way it is."
The committee will meet over the next 60 days to review discipline processes and make recommendations about alternatives. It will also look into improved training protocols as well as staff support and post-traumatic incident intervention.
Phase two will focus on public safety procedures with an eye toward developing a multi-faceted plan to improve public safety in Memphis.
Phase three will focus on building a strategic financial and operating plan to implement the recommendations.
In addition a waste, fraud, and abuse hotline will be established for anonymous reporting of issues from the public.
The committee is scheduled to complete the initial review process by mid-February 2013 with a final product completed by December 2013.