Joint ordinance could end specialized units within MPD and SCSO

Published: Feb. 22, 2023 at 6:27 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Several joint resolutions between Memphis City Council and Shelby County Commission could change the way the law is enforced in Shelby County.

This comes as a direct response to the death of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols, who was beaten by multiple Memphis police officers who were a part of the department’s SCORPION Unit.

At Wednesday County Commission meeting, one of the ordinances on the agenda was one that would “disband and discontinue future use of all Memphis Police Department specialized units and task forces and end participation in multi-jurisdictional and multi-agency task forces.”

County Commissioner Britney Thornton from Shelby County’s 10th District is the sponsor of this joint resolution on the county side.

“Unfortunately, a life was lost to get us to this point,” Thornton said. “I think it’s good, at least for us to be responsive to make sure that we are keeping up with what is progress.”

Thornton is also the sponsor of another joint ordinance that would limit the use of unmarked vehicles.

Some of the officers who responded to the Tyre Nichols traffic stop were in unmarked vehicles.

“If I’m being pulled over by someone that I cannot clearly identify as being a law enforcement officer, that is distressing,” said Thornton.

This second ordinance would also ban pretextual traffic stops, when someone is pulled over for a traffic violation and then becomes part of a criminal investigation that has nothing to do with their driving.

It was determined Wednesday that these joint resolutions would have to be pushed back to the next County Commission meeting.

The language sent over by City Council only mentioned MPD, and Thornton wants the language to reflect all of Shelby County law enforcement.

It isn’t a joint resolution if the language isn’t the same for both bodies.

“The great thing about ordinances is that it takes three reads to pass, so it’s going to create some dialogue between the local activist community, the Sheriff’s department, and elected officials,” said Thornton.

There was also a third ordinance sponsored by Commissioner Miska Clay-Bibbs that would create a Tyre Nichols Transparency and Policing Policy, which would be applied during use-of-force investigations in Shelby County that resulted in serious harm or death.

That, too, was pushed back to the next County Commission meeting.

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