VOL. 131 | NO. 208 | Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Five-Year Crime Plan Avoids 'Stop & Frisk' Reference
By Bill Dries
Memphis-Shelby Crime Commission president and CEO Bill Gibbons won’t even say “stop and frisk.”
“When you look at it in terms of the practice of detaining and patting people down – I’m not going to use that other term,” Gibbons said on the WKNO TV show “Behind The Headlines.”
Gibbons was responding to a question about whether police policies, procedures and training would change in a new five year Operation: Safe Community plan the crime commission is drafting for a November release.
The crime commission has hired former New York City police commissioner Ray Kelly as a consultant. Kelly was police commissioner during the NYC Police Department’s increased use of a “stop and frisk” policy.
A federal court judge ruled that the way the city’s carried out the policy for a decade was unconstitutional and racially discriminatory. The city appealed but reduced its use of the policy and later withdrew its appeal. The use of stop and frisk in New York City is in the process of being overhauled and watched by a court-appointed monitor.
Behind The Headlines, hosted by Eric Barnes, publisher of The Daily News, can be seen on The Daily News Video page, video.memphisdailynews.com.
“It’s obviously very important that our law enforcement officers be adequately trained and know the standards to use because if those standards are not used it’s very difficult for the District Attorney or the U.S. Attorney to successfully prosecute that case,” Gibbons said.
When asked if a “stop and frisk” policy of some kind would be part of the new five-year plan, Gibbons said citizens are detained every day by police here and elsewhere based on “reasonable suspicion.”
“The Supreme Court has been very clear that that is a legitimate constitutional procedure,” he added. “But it has to be based on reasonable suspicion. … So again, the key is for those standards to be adhered to.”
Collins said “stop and frisk” has come up at one of the town hall meetings he and Gibbons have had in recent weeks at various police precincts across the city.
“I don’t think (Memphis Police) Director (Michael) Rallings and the Memphis Police Department will overtly go out and start stopping people and patting them down on suspicion of those things that get us into trouble,” he said. “I think they will be trained to see that that person is a threat to themselves or a threat to the community.”
But Collins said citizens at the sessions have called for “better relationships with law enforcement.”
“We had a very robust neighborhood watch community 20 years ago,” he said of better communication among neighbors. “Because people are so transient, people move in and move out on a regular basis they can’t establish trustworthy relationships. That’s what neighborhoods are.”
While Operation: Safe Community is pointed at affecting crime statistics, Gibbons said there is discussion outside that effort about larger changes in the criminal justice system.
A state public safety committee is discussing fines and fees connected to court cases as part of a larger discussion about the best use of the state’s prison beds.
“We spend a lot of time … talking about fines,” he said. “It’s kind of a mixed bag.”
Gibbons, a former Shelby County District Attorney General, said of the 125,000 cases handled by the District Attorney General’s office each year, less than 10 percent end with a defendant going to prison.
“In the other cases individuals are being placed on probation,” he said. “The only effective means of holding them accountable for what they did is payment of some fine. That’s it. So, we need to get that amount. I think what we’ve done over many years is develop a system of fines so that they are so great in amount that a lot of individuals find themselves totally incapable of paying the fines.”
The five-year plan being developed is the third since 2006 when the coalition of law enforcement and criminal justice system leaders put in place an emphasis on statistics-driven policing known as Blue CRUSH – moving police resources to concentrate on areas with crime spikes.
Blue CRUSH was the answer to a spike in violent crime in the city. It also was the beginning of a common set of statistics kept using the same standards in order to track the rise or fall of crime in specific categories and the general categories of violent crime and property crime.
“We have seen some of that progress erode,” Gibbons said of the 10-year tracking of crime. “We are still about 12 or 13 percent below where we were in 2006.”
But Gibbons said a net drop of about 400 police officers in recent years is one reason he believes the effort has “lost some of that ground.”
“We have lost about 20 percent of our police force,” Gibbons added. “That’s a huge loss of police officers. It’s tough to have a data-driven deployment of your police resources and be as effective as we were.”
Collins said the plan will include efforts to change the pipeline of defendants.
“What we are going to be looking at through our plan is how we can reduce the numbers of repeat offenders who get released from jail or prison when they come back home,” he said.
That would include job counseling and life counseling.