Council questions funding for police advisory board - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Council questions funding for police advisory board

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

With another round of city budget talks scheduled for next week some Memphis City Council members are making inquiries about money being paid to a police advisory board.

In 2012 Mayor A C Wharton appointed a three person group to look into police policies and procedures and make recommendations to Police Director Toney Armstrong.

In terms of public perception the Memphis Police Department's image appears to take a step backwards every time another officer is arrested or indicted.

Former MPD officer indicted for official misconduct

A member of a special police advisory board says the work of his group seeks to change that. He just hopes they'll continue to be given the time to do it.

Just over seven months ago, Mayor Wharton announced, with great fanfare, the formation of an all-star trio to review the practices, ethics and policies of a Memphis Police Department under public fire.

"It's a good combination who knows MPD from the ground up, that won't end up sending us some big bill just learning North Memphis from South Memphis," the mayor said in November 2012.

Memphis appoints committee to review police policies

But, what began with a roar has dissipated into a dim memory for council members.

"We've heard nothing since the big announcement was made many months ago," said Councilman Jim Strickland. "We've not heard a word."

"The mission is an ongoing mission and the first 60 days was really fact-finding," said Rev. Keith Norman of the MPD Policy Review Board. "An opportunity to discover."

So, why has the process of discovery being explored by the oversight group, Rev. Norman, and retired MPD officers Billy Garrett and Bishop Mays, not drawn any public attention given the dire circumstances under which it was formed? What have they been up to?

"Maybe there is a result that hasn't been shared with us?," Councilman Strickland questioned. "Maybe the police director has used the information?"

Which is what's happening according to Rev. Norman. He notes the group does make recommendations to Director Armstrong on best practice policies they've discovered by researching other law enforcement agencies and conducting extensive surveys among MPD officers. Their work is especially concentrated on what's needed to eventually develop more qualified recruits.

"We want to make sure that the men and women of the force are getting the getting the best practices that are available to  us and making sure that in getting those practices we're implementing those things as we go along. This is going to take some time," Rev. Norman said.

Considering what's gone with MPD since the trio was appointed would back up Rev. Norman's forecast. Since their appointments in November 2012, there have been four officer-involved deadly shootings and more than a half dozen officers arrested or indicted.

Yet, Rev. Norman insists statistics show it hasn't been business as usual among the MPD bad apples set.

"We've gone back to compare data," Rev. Norman said. "I've looked at the present administration. I've looked previous administrations. We have fewer officers in this administration that are actually being indicted than in previous administrations."

But, nothing good ever seems to come without a price tag. In this case, with budget constrictions strapping city government is the 20 to 25 hours a week Rev. Norman says the group's putting in, worth the bang for the buck?

"We've put in a lot more man hours than originally expected," he said.

"I sent an e-mail to Chief Administrative Officer George Little and asked what the status was and has money been paid, cause frankly I did not realize they were being paid," Councilman Strickland said.
"It's really not even about whether there's a stipend involved or not," Rev. Norman added. "The work is noteworthy. It needs to be done. The results are being produced. Some good change is taking place."

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