Race & Class Equity (R.A.C.E.) in the Justice System
What's the problem?
As Memphis grapples with the evolution of racism in the 21st century, Memphians of color bear the brunt of that struggle. Our local governments including the school boards and law enforcement, don’t do enough to lighten the load. The Memphis Police Department lacks accountability. The Civil Law Enforcement Review Board (CLERB) has heard dozens of complaints about police misconduct and recommended appropriate follow-ups by MPD in some cases. MPD has enacted none of CLERB’s recommendations. As ICE intensifies their presence in Memphis and Shelby County, more Memphians are missing family and neighbors, or are whisked away to detention themselves. A common infraction that initiates the pipeline to deportation is lack of identification.
Why should we care?
Our children of color shouldn’t have to walk into a classroom only to find racial slurs etched into their desks. Educators should be educated and trained on how to handle issues of racial and diversity biases. Improving police relations and oversight, especially in law enforcement’s involvement with people of color within the community, would increase confidence and security for the greater Memphis area. More importantly, it could potentially help in preventing unnecessary injuries or deaths. When Martavious Banks was shot by officers in September, their body cameras were turned off, in violation of MPD policy. Fear of law enforcement is also felt by the immigrants within our community as well. Undocumented immigrants paid $61.5 million in Memphis taxes in 2015 and are less than half as likely as native-born citizens to commit crimes. The Memphians who are torn away leave behind gaping holes not just within their families, but also within our community.
What should be done?
Strengthen the Citizen Law Enforcement Review Board (CLERB) by granting it independent subpoena power, including subpoena power over officers. Request MPD Director Rallings signal his commitment to engaging CLERB in good faith by addressing and honoring their recommendations to date.
Work with the city and county mayors to make Memphis a more welcoming city by creating and recognizing a City ID card accessible to every member of the community and accepted by both city and county law enforcement.
Demand racial and diversity sensitivity training and education for all local law enforcement and school board employees and students.