Less talk, more action: Memphis activists react to Mayor’s plan for police reform

Watch: Less talk, more action: Memphis activists react to Mayor?s plan for police reform

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Some Memphis activists said they want less talk and more action after hearing from Mayor Jim Strickland and police director Mike Rallings about their plans for police reform Thursday.

The two leaders spent the last month meeting with a small group of clergy members and activists to develop new policies for the police department.

FOX13 talked to some of the activists who didn’t have a seat at the table for the meetings.

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Some activists said they want Mayor Strickland and Director Rallings to hear the voices of those who have been camping outside of city hall for almost two straight weeks.

“It’s a lot of talk, a lot of conversation but not a lot of action to back it up,” said community activist Theryn C. Bond.

That was Bond’s reaction after hearing the Strickland administration roll out its five changes for police reform.

The changes include updating city polices to reflect “sentiment” of the 8 Can’t Wait campaign, improving the civilian review board, and ongoing talks with the police union to hold officers accountable who use excessive force.

“Where’s the ‘here’s what we’re talking about, here’s the plan that we’re putting in place and here’s the timeline that accompanies that plan, and here’s the action that we should expect?’ and if that correctly then what, and if doesn’t go well, what’s next? We have to walk through all of these steps in order to make sure real change happens,” Bond said.

Additionally, the city said it’ll use community activists for sensitivity and cultural training for MPD.

Bond said she wants to know which community activists will be involved in this process.

“The people who have thus far been in those meetings are not the people that are out here every single day working to improve the lives of black and brown folks,” she said. “Those are not the people who have been working out here to say ‘Hey, my community’s in need. What are you doing to help?’”

Dr. Earle Fisher, pastor at Abyssinian Missionary Baptist Church said these proposals are a start, but it can’t stop there.

“I don’t want smoke and mirrors like the language of 8 Can’t Wait, the sentiment of 8 Can’t Wait – we need the structure, we need the substance of these police reforms to be taking place and we need them to be taking place sooner rather than later,” Fisher said.

Fisher also said there are some changes he wants to see that didn’t make the list.

“I didn’t hear anything from the administration nor the department about banning the use of tear gas, or rubber bullets or other militaristic equipment on civilians so these are things that need to be brought to the discussion,” he said.

FOX13 also reached out to the Memphis Police Association about these changes from the Strickland Administration.

MPA President Michael Williams said he couldn’t comment on the changes just yet, but in a statement he said “I’m not opposed to changes as long as it doesn’t put officers’ safety as risk and as long as it doesn’t impede on their Constitutional rights.”

Within the next week, we expected to hear more from the mayor about how they will expand these conversations to more people in the community.

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