VOL. 131 | NO. 94 | Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Weirich Gets Body-Cam Help Until July
By Bill Dries
Shelby County Commissioners approved Monday, May 9, three temporary positions for the Shelby County District Attorney General’s Office toward the rollout of Memphis Police Department body cameras.
But the three positions are only good through the end of June and there is no guarantee from commissioners that they will fund the effort in the new fiscal year that starts July 1.
The positions amount to a transfer of unfilled positions from the county administration as a compromise to let the prosecutor’s office begin to set up a system for cataloging and reviewing the recordings.
The compromise was originally five temporary positions until the commission cut it back to three.
Commissioner Heidi Shafer, who altered the compromise to include written guarantees that the Shelby County Public Defender’s Office would get 75 percent of whatever amount the three positions come to in dollars, termed it a “reasonable-ish compromise.”
The DA’s office must make its case for funding those positions and others in the new fiscal year during the commission’s budget hearings, which are currently under way.
“I underline the word temporary,” commission chairman Terry Roland said of the positions approved Monday.
Commissioners question why the county should pay for a body camera system for Memphis Police. They have also questioned why the police system involves District Attorney General Amy Weirich’s office cataloging recordings when the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department catalogs its own dash cam videos.
Meanwhile, commissioners expressed some impatience Monday to putting into action a plan that would improve the level of minority businesses getting county government contracts.
The commission approved Monday a draft version of a disparity study confirming there is a racial disparity in the awarding of Shelby County government contracts.
But the commission delayed the next two steps at the request of the administration of Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, which says the report is percentages and other general data. Luttrell and his administration want to review the specific data compiled by consulting firm Mason Tillman and Associates on businesses and dollar amounts not listed in the draft report.
With that review, the commission would next vote on a final draft of the report, followed by a $90,000 contract with the consulting firm to come up with a county program for improving the amount of contracting with minority and women-owned businesses.
Some commissioners wanted to vote on all three steps Monday.
County Chief Administrative Officer Harvey Kennedy said the administration doesn’t contest that there is a disparity, but argued the specific data represents some “fairly significant items” that are key to formulating a plan to overcome the disparity.
The commission also delayed approval of a $1.9 million contract with Campbell Contracting Co. Inc. for construction of a new maintenance facility for the Shelby County Fire Department. The delay dovetails with how long it might take to put a minority contracting program in place.
The first meeting of an ad hoc committee on a minority business contracting plan is May 18. Delaying the contract with Campbell Contracting could mean rebidding the project.
“We would be sending a strong message,” commissioner Reginald Milton said. “This motivates everyone.”
But commissioner Mark Billingsley argued against a delay.
“Time is money,” he said. “You don’t fix one disparity by creating another disparity.”
Kennedy said there are no minority contracting goals or policies in place yet.
“You are shooting for a target of a program that doesn’t exist yet,” he said.