Ryan Poe, USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee
More than two years after its controversial relaunch, the citizen board reviewing allegations of Memphis police misconduct has its own complaint: It’s all a “show.”
Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings has yet to agree to any recommendation proposed by the 14-member Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board (CLERB), rendering the board a “dog and pony show” absent needed reforms, according to a letter the board plans to send to Mayor Jim Strickland and City Council members this week.
“The political fight should have ended the day the revised ordinance for CLERB passed, but, unfortunately, Director Rallings has chosen to continue the debate by attempting to render the board ineffective by rejecting all of our recommendations,” the letter reads. “Some of these cases involved unquestionable video footage, and it is beyond absurd that none of our recommendations have been accepted.”
“That could very well be their goal, their intentions,” White said.
He added: “There’s no respect for the board.”
John Marek, an attorney and board member, said the board’s issue with Rallings is that he seems to give a “rubber-stamp no” to even reasonable recommendations like more training for officers captured on video losing their tempers with citizens.
“He doesn’t even split the baby,” Marek said. “He just throws it out completely.”
Rallings’ communications staff didn’t respond to a request for comment.
CLERB outlined four solutions to make the board effective: Rallings could “compromise”; Strickland could bring in a new police director; the council could give CLERB “binding” authority over cases; or 4) the council could amend the current ordinance to let the board appeal Rallings’ decisions to the mayor.
“The members of CLERB volunteer our time, and, currently, it is being wasted,” the board said in its letter.
Strickland supported CLERB while on the council, and still does, but the scope of CLERB’s power is set by ordinance, city spokeswoman Ursula Madden said.
“If the board wants to change its scope it should work with the council,” she said.
“If they’re claiming they’re a ‘dog and pony show,’ that could elevate the issue in some council members’ minds,” Morgan said.
In its meeting last week, the board also decided for the first time to request a subpoena in the case of Marcus Walker, who filed an excessive force complaint with Internal Affairs in July 2011, before the proliferation of body cameras and cell phone videos. The council initially considered giving CLERB subpoena power, but council attorney Allan Wade had opined that the council couldn’t delegate the power to its boards. In a compromise, the council agreed to consider subpoenas proposed by CLERB.
“It’s a test to see whether our subpoena power is taken seriously,” Marek said.