In front of a room of concerned parents and community members Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong fielded questions about police harassment, rising crime rates and shrinking resources.
The community forum was hosted by Annesdale Cherokee Baptist Church and co-sponsored by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Rainbow PUSH. The organizations drafted a letter to Armstrong and Memphis Mayor A C Wharton that included recommendations for improving the relationship between the police department and the community.
Included in the letter were suggestions to increase Sky Cops' presence in high crime areas, broaden the authority of the Citizen Review Board and immediately terminate officers convicted of "serious infractions such as domestic violence, illegal drug usage, DUI, and any other reckless activity." Since January, more than a dozen officers have been arrested on charges ranging from DUI to sex trafficking.
At Monday's meeting, moderated by Rainbow PUSH President Lasimba Gray, Armstrong listened to concerns from parents who said their children have been harassed by police officers, or had been victims of crimes.
On the subject of corrupt officers, Armstrong made his position exceedingly clear: "If they can't make up their mind if they want to be a thug or if they want to be a police officer, I'll make it up for you."
While he acknowledged the rise in homicides this year, Armstrong also asked that parents in Memphis take a greater responsibility for their children, to which the crowd gave an enthusiastic round of applause.
"You can double the size of my department, but I should be never, ever be able to go and knock on anybody's door, and you can't tell me where your 15-year-old is," Armstrong said.
"Please, if you take anything away from this tonight, it's that the Memphis Police Department cannot fix all the ills of the city of Memphis by ourselves."
Copyright 2012 - The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service