Thursday, December 1, 2016

Rules for the Rules Enforcers: MPD Policy and Procedures

Click to see MPD Policy & Procedures
The American Dialect Society annually designates a “Word of the Year.”  In 2015 the society picked “they,” when used as a singular, genderless pronoun.   For 2014 the society chose #blacklivesmatter, which is a hashtag, but close enough.

How did they miss “transparency?”  

If you have listened to any press conferences with mayors, district attorneys, police chiefs or just about anybody in government during this decade, you heard “transparency.” 

Former Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton Jr. last year asked Michael Carpenter of The Plough Foundation to make a comprehensive report on open records and transparency.  Carpenter delivered his report April 30, 2015.   Here is a link to that report:

The report said every department in the city needs to be more accommodating to the public -- and “MPD should go beyond what the law requires and set a standard of transparency for the rest of city government.”

Then in May 2015 The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing was published.  Here is a link to that report:

The first line of the report said this:

“Trust between law enforcement agencies and the people they protect and serve is essential in a democracy.”

To further transparency and build trust, citizens may find it instructive to understand law enforcement’s view of things as expressed in a police department’s policy and procedures manual.  The manual is something of a cop bible, laying out in detail how police are to operate, including the line between what is proper and what is not.  Here is a link to the Memphis Police Department Policy and Procedures, revised as of July 31, 2016 with some redactions

Chapter One, Section Three includes department rules and regulations and outlines police conduct concerning such things as acceptance of gifts, domestic violence, spying on political activity and use of force. 

The President’s Task Force report also said cities should implement an effective citizen police oversight board.  In Memphis it’s called the Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board.  More than 120 U.S. cities have one, including Knoxville and Atlanta. 

Citizens who believe they had been done wrong by police have been at a disadvantage if they do not know MPD policy and procedures.  Having access to MPD policies will make it easier for citizens to understand how police operate and on what basis MPD may choose to defend officers – and if an officer has acted according to policy or not.  

Watching the Watchers should not be a gauntlet.  The Watchers who must be watched most closely are harder to watch than those whose misconduct gets seen by a citizen's cell phone camera.  It's the elected and appointed officials who set policy, tone and funding for the men and women on the street and thus create the culture in which sworn officers operate.  

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