Family members of two people shot and killed by Memphis police officers
were looking for answers Tuesday evening as Mayor A C Wharton and Police
Director Toney Armstrong fielded questions at a town hall meeting.
This event, sponsored by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and The Rainbow PUSH Coalition, was an opportunity for residents to talk with the mayor and police director about the city's police force and crime in the Bluff City.
The brother of Steven Askew, the man who was shot and killed in January by Officers Ned Aufdenkamp and Matthew Dyess after pointing a gun at them, and the mother of 15-year-old Justin Thompson, the teen who was shot and killed in September 2012 by off-duty Officer Terrence Shaw, were both in attendance to ask questions about their family member's cases.
Neither of them have not received the answers they were looking for.
"My son Justin Thompson was killed by an off-duty officer and I haven't had any answers yet," said Shirley Thompson.
"This was not an investigation that the Memphis Police Department conducted," Director Armstrong said in response. "There still is an administrative hearing pending and it has not happened yet, but assure you that at the conclusion of that administrative hearing I'll reach out to you personally and I'll discuss it with you."
Mayor Wharton told Memphians in attendance he needs their help at city hall when they're talking about the police budget.
"There's one of me and there's 13 members of the city council," Mr. Wharton said. "I don't have a vote on the budget we need to see this crowd down there when the budget comes up that's where the decisions are really made."
There was talk about police misconduct, but Director Armstrong asked residents to focus on the positive work his officers are doing. He says the department investigates misconduct and holds officers accountable. In 2012, they fired 23 officers for misconduct, a small percentage of the nearly 2,500 on the force.
"I don't want to focus on that 1 percent, those 23 officers that I don't want in my police department either," he said. "I think if you look at the conclusions of the disciplinary process is we get it right because I send a lot of them home."
The town hall meeting was also an opportunity for the SCLC to present their ideas for fighting crime in the city. The police director and mayor said they need community help to fight the violence. The pastors at the meeting say churches have a role in fighting crime.
Director Armstrong, who did a lot of listening and tried to answer as many questions as he could during the town hall forum, says his department is making an effort to get out into the community and interact with residents.
The event's organizers say they wanted to come together to support the mayor and director and offer their thoughts on the department.