MPD Chief meets with President Biden on gun crime intervention plan

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The White House is stepping in to help reduce gun crime in Memphis and across the country.

President Joe Biden’s new plan focuses on allowing cities to use the $350 billion of the American Rescue Plan for immediate police needs like hiring and training.

Biden held a roundtable discussion Monday with Memphis’ new police Chief C.J. Davis and other law enforcement officials from across the country about reducing violent crime.

“We have to find balance. We can’t continue to arrest crime away. We need to get guns off the street, hold people accountable and ensure that our communities get the kind of protection they need,” said Chief Davis.

The President’s plan includes giving police departments federal tools to address summer violent crime, investing in more community violence interventions, and expanding summer programs and job opportunities.

Chief Davis said there should be some correlation between the President’s plan and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to maximize the impact.

“Right now, black and brown communities are being terrorized by gun violence. We need to ensure we give people an opportunity to stay out of the criminal justice system and those individuals who continue to commit violent crime they need to be dealt with by the criminal justice system,” said Chief Davis.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the administration wants to give cities the tools they need to make the most impact.

“One of the things that we have seen especially with community violence programs if it’s done correctly, if it’s done hand-in-hand and there is enough funding there, it actually, we see a difference. We see crime coming down by 60 percent. That’s what the data shows us,” said Jean-Pierre.

Memphis is one of several cities already committed to using this funding to improve public safety and expand community services.

Part of the city’s plan includes hiring and training more police officers and paying overtime for officers.

Councilman JB Smiley said that’s a good start, but in addition to more officers on patrol, he wants the department to hire mental health officers.

“Not just to deal with folks in the community who are having mental health crisis but also to deal with the officers to make sure that they are in addition to being physically fit, mentally fit to do the job,” he said.

Some of the money will be used for youth programs and hiring and training staff to work in violence intervention.

Smiley said some of those programs shouldn’t be limited to afterschool or summer activities.

“What about teaching the young people critical thinking skills, conflict resolution skills,” said Smiley. “I think we should dedicate to creating vital programs specifically for youth as opposed to a program with entire violence.”

Councilwoman Jamita Swearengen said this is also an opportunity to reinvest in community policing.

“One thing we need to do is restore relationships, and there is a distance between the constituents in the neighborhoods. They don’t feel that they’re friends, and we need to restore that,” said Swearengen.