CLERB awaits legal opinion after governor signs bill abolishing community oversight boards

Published: May. 19, 2023 at 5:38 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - How the community handles police complaints will change moving forward after Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed a bill Wednesday abolishing community oversight boards.

That puts Memphis’ Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board (CLERB) in limbo.

Community activist and CLERB member Stevie Moore has spent decades trying to slow down violence in the city.

“My whole thing is stopping the crime, stop the killing,” said Moore. “I know sometimes there are officers that go beyond where they should go beyond.”

For over two years, Moore has also served CLERB, which is now on the verge of extinction, or at least a reorganization after the governor signed a bill into law abolishing community oversight boards like CLERB.

”I’m 72 years old, and I understand one thing, most of this is politics,” Moore said. “It’s whichever the wind [is] blowing, whichever the way the politics is going, that’s why the oversight doesn’t matter.”

The bill essentially guts the power of some police oversight boards if they do not conform to the new legislation.

While CLERB has 13 members, under the new law, police review boards can only have seven members who are selected by the mayor and approved by a governing body.

Reviews are completed only after police internal affairs investigations.

Other than the number of members allowed on the board, CLERB actually operates similarly to how the governor wants all community oversight boards to operate.

Memphis City Council Chair Martavius Jones says he wanted to change that prior to this new bill being signed.

“There were a number of us looking to strengthen what CLERB was doing and what that does is it just snatches the rug under our feet,” said Jones.

With little power, Moore says his hands are often tied. Officers at the center of complaints don’t have to show up to answer their questions.

“I enjoy being on it, but are we doing justice?” asked Moore.

Councilman Jones says the city is waiting for their attorney to provide guidance on what’s next for CLERB.

It may be discussed at the next full council meeting.

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