DOJ to review Memphis police after announcing it wouldn’t

There was a mix-up between the Department of Justice and the city of Memphis Friday about whether the federal agency would continue a review of the city’s police department.

On Friday morning, the Community Oriented Policing Services arm of the DOJ announced it would no longer review the Memphis Police Department, after months of talks between the two agencies. But, according to the Commercial Appeal, by the afternoon, things were back on track.

The COPS office works with police departments on ways to strengthen community policing. It has previously assessed departments in San Francisco, Philadelphia, Las Vegas and others. At the end of the process, federal authorities provide a report and recommendations for improvement. It’s similar to the consent decree process, which was implemented heavily under the Obama administration, though the COPS review has a more narrow focus.

A press release from the DOJ came down at 10:17 a.m. which read, “The Department of Justice’s COPS Office will no longer proceed with the collaborative reform process with the City of Memphis and Memphis Police Department.”

A few hours later, the DOJ sent out a second release.

“The Department of Justice’s COPS Office previously announced its intention to withdraw from the collaborative reform process in Memphis because it had not received a signed memorandum of agreement (MOA), which is a requirement of the collaborative reform process,” read the second statement, which announced things were back on track.

“All of our phones started blowing up,” said mayoral spokesperson Ursula Madden, who called Friday’s confusion “frustrating.” Madden said Mayor Jim Strickland had signed the MOA around 10 a.m., and they were set to send it over.

“We have been in constant contact with members of the DOJ and COPS program since October, and have worked in good faith on this collaborative process. We can only attribute this to a miscommunication,” said Madden.

Strickland and Police Director Michael Rallings requested the review in October.

Also on Friday, the Memphis Police Department asked residents to take a survey on use of force by officers.

“Providing this survey to the citizens of Memphis is a proactive measure to allow civilians an opportunity to experience first-hand what our officers face on a daily basis,” said Rallings. “It further allows us, as a law enforcement agency to understand what the public perceives to be reasonable force used by an officer,”