Memphis City Council passes ‘Driving Equality Act,’ tables other policing ordinance

Published: Apr. 11, 2023 at 10:18 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - After weeks of revisions, an ordinance changing how Memphis police pull drivers over for minor traffic violations is official.

The “Driving Equality Act in Honor of Tyre Nichols” will prevent pre-textual stops by Memphis police for secondary violations.

After being pushed back multiple times, city leaders, including Memphis police, say they’ll be able to enforce it now.

Council members unanimously passed the ordinance in a 11-0 vote.

Its sponsor, Councilwoman Michalyn Easter-Thomas, says the ordinance will put police where they’re needed.

“What this ordinance is not saying, is do not go to those aggressive drivers,” said Easter-Thomas. “It’s not saying we’re not looking for counterfeit tags. It’s diverting our resources to where we need the most, which is for MPD to fight crime for us and for them to be in their communities being supportive and engaging so that we can build our positive decorum between our officers and our community members.”

Memphis police would be able to make traffic stops for primary violations, like aggressive driving.

Police will not make stops for secondary violations like:

  • Expired registration if the vehicle has been registered with the city within 60 days.
  • License plates not securely attached to the vehicle, but clearly displayed.
  • Single brake light, headlight, or running light outages.
  • Having a loose bumper.

Police can, however, make a stop if a driver has both a primary and secondary violation together.

Councilwoman Easter-Thomas says after its passing, Memphis is now the sixth city in the U.S. to adopt a driving equality act.

The ordinance takes effect immediately.

Council tables “2023 Comprehensive Justice in Policing Ordinance” indefinitely

An ordinance that has sparked controversy in and out of city council meetings, was tabled Tuesday.

The ordinance, originally named after Tyre Nichols, would have repealed and replaced previous police reform ordinances already passed by city councilors.

But, council Vice Chairman JB Smiley Jr. says public feedback called for several changes.

“We heard the community and they want changes,” said Smiley. “We try to meet some of those changes at the community conversations event that I hosted and we also try to do that today. But it seems like the different constituency groups and also the council haven’t yet found the appropriate language to move forward.”

The name of the ordinance was changed to the “2023 Comprehensive Justice in Policing Ordinance.”

No word on if or when it might be revived.

Citizens banned from city council chambers for two meetings

A protest during Tuesday’s meeting also occurred after at least three people were banned from council chambers.

This all developed over the weekend. Community organizer Amber Sherman was one of at least three people who were banned from two meetings after expressing disapproval of the policing ordinance at the last council meeting.

Members of the audience chanted “Let them in!” referring to those who were banned from council chambers.

Before that, several public speakers spoke against the ban, likening the treatment of Sherman and others to Representative Justin Jones and Justin J. Pearson, who were recently expelled from the Tennessee House.

Chairman Martavius Jones eventually cut off public comment.

He says Sherman and others were banned for being disruptive and using profanity at the previous meeting.

“We don’t have to provide a forum for people to be disruptive to be disrespectful, to use profanity in these settings. It’s about us exercising that... We have to make tough decisions like that if we want to conduct the business at the City of Memphis in a manner that is efficient and responding to the public at the same time.”

Sherman and others stood at the door, but she was not allowed inside.

Sherman told city leaders she’d be back for the council’s next meeting.

Click here to sign up for our newsletter!

Click here to report a spelling or grammar error. Please include the headline.