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Posted on: October 19, 2020

Mayor Lee Harris’ Update on Police Reform

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Right now, Shelby County Government is in the midst of considering law enforcement reform. In Shelby County, the discussion of law enforcement reform builds on the best practices and ideas that we have seen come out of our very own Sheriff’s Office. Even in one of the most challenging periods any Sheriff has ever faced, he is doing incredible work.

Nevertheless, we continue to see protests around the nation, including here in Shelby County. I believe we should engage in the conversation and lift up concerns raised. One way we can do that is to draw a sharp distinction between the work of our local law enforcement agencies and the work of the military. That’s why we have worked with Commissioner Turner and several other Commissioners to craft a reasonable procedure for regulating military equipment transfers from federal sources. If the Shelby County Division of Corrections, the Sheriff’s Office, or the Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security request any transfers of offensive weapons and equipment, the request would have to be publicly noticed and brought before the Commission for approval. As you may have seen in this week’s paper, this reform faces a real uphill battle to win approval from the Commission.

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This is important work and I hope you’ll find the time to review this link to learn more. The military and local law enforcement agencies are not the same. Sometimes, based on various situations around the country, the line between military and local enforcement gets blurred. Military equipment transfers are one of those ways the line gets blurred. Furthermore, it’s more important now than ever before to do something at the local level, because there are no longer regulations on military equipment transfers at the federal level. As a result of the current gap in regulation, I believe it’s critical that we do something at the local level.

We would also like to thank those in our community who continue to advocate for this reform, including: ACLU-Tennessee, American Friends Service Committee, Pax Christi, Bishop Linwood Dillard, KLAP, Inc., Memphis Urban League, First Baptist Broad Pastor Keith Norman, Memphis & West TN AFL-CIO Labor Council, and Teamsters Local 667.

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