May 23, 2018
by John Marek, guest columnist
In a recently published letter to the editor, the author wondered whether the Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board (CLERB) includes anyone with a law enforcement background.
Actually, Dwan Gilliom, a CLERB board member, is a former Memphis police officer.
He voted with all other board members May 10 to send a letter requesting meetings with the mayor and City Council and expressing our concerns about Police Director Michael Rallings’ continual “rubber-stamp no’s” to CLERB’s decisions.
Mr. Gilliom also voted with the board earlier this month to exercise our subpoena power, through City Council, in the case of Marcus Walker, who filed an excessive force complaint with Internal Affairs in 2011.
The letter writer also asked, “How many board members have done a ride-along with police, recently or at all?”
Some of the members of CLERB have attended a class at the police academy and have taken part in ride-alongs. These classes have not been offered often, but more members, including many recently-added members, will take part in the classes and ride-alongs as they become available.
The writer also suggested CLERB has an agenda. There is one: Making sure Memphis does not become the next Ferguson, Baltimore, or Los Angeles.
Bodycams, which we now have; a stronger CLERB, which we need; and having outside district attorneys handle criminal complaints against local police, which U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen has proposed — those are some of the many necessary pieces to the puzzle needed to bring our community and our police closer together.
In 2016, I was inspired when then interim-Director Rallings walked arm-in-arm with protesters who were leaving the I-40 bridge. The peaceful resolution to that protest was a shining example for the rest of the country. No arrests were made and no use-of-force was necessary.
Unfortunately, that appears to have been for show as we now see no commitment to addressing the types of issues the protesters on the bridge were concerned about.
Allowing every CLERB decision, including cases involving video footage, to be rubber-stamped “no” by our current police director is causing CLERB to appear as a “dog and pony show”.
That’s the phrase Rev. Ralph White, CLERB’s chairman used in the letter we sent to both the mayor and council. In said letter, Rev. White offers multiple options to make the board more effective, and improve community/police relations.
Please read the letter (published elsewhere on this page).
We need a police director who will work with CLERB, or a procedure for appeal when the police director disagrees with a decision of CLERB, or an ordinance that makes CLERB’s decisions binding.
Otherwise, board members are volunteering for nothing, and the city is not receiving the benefit from CLERB that it needs.
John Marek is an attorney and a CLERB board member.