ISSUES

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Tami will fight so that everyone feels safe in their neighborhoods and is treated equally by the criminal justice system.

Current State

 

Today, violent crime in Memphis is personal. 78 percent of the homicides in 2019 have been between people who know each other. Domestic violence is the leading cause of death for Black women and in 2017, it took MPD an average of 9.5 minutes to respond to 911 calls about domestic violence. 

 

Our current city administration believes to its core that the only answer to crime is police - lots of them - despite research that shows that punishment policies have only a modest impact on decreasing crime. The current mayor has invested in policing and safety so that today, 70 percent of the 2019 budget goes to this effort alone. We are employing officers at near record-rates without any understanding as a community as to what this increase in investment and officers does to our local crime or response rates and without clear evidence that more police is the cause of any decreases in crime or increases in response times that we might see. We are led to believe that the only path to a safer city is one with an omnipresent police force. 

 

We have a Crime Commission that invests and significantly shapes public agencies but was chartered in a way that allows it to operate as a private entity, denying citizens the transparency that is required of healthy democracies. That same Crime Commission, alongside the current mayor, sought to hire Ray Kelly, the architect of the racist, failed “broken-windows” and “stop-and-frisk” policing in New York City to bring more “law and order” to our city. The City of Memphis currently abdicates its responsibilities to a private group whose president also produces reports in his job at the University of Memphis that validate the Crime Commission’s priorities. We need objective community based accountability and a democracy requires it.

 

Our current mayor lobbied the General Assembly in Nashville for harsher, longer sentences, and continues to push for “tough on crime laws” that we see being reformed across the country. Along with the Crime Commission, he has a history of pushing for these tough on crime laws including mandatory sentencing and felony charge increases that puts even more power into the hands of the District Attorney. These laws have led to Tennessee being one of only eight states in the country to see its highest prison populations ever, a system that is made up of 40% Black people, despite the state only being 17% Black. 

 

Moreover, we have a district attorney that insists on filling our prisons with low-level drug offenders, a move that costs taxpayers millions of dollars, and refuses to instead prosecute only violent crimes as so many DA’s across the country are doing. She also refuses to hold law enforcement accountable for the shootings of Memphians. 

 

The current mayor has also refused to demonstrate a clear priority for transparency and accountability through his lack of support for the Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board (CLERB). Instead, he leads a city administration that criminalized local activists with the creation of a black list designed to limit their access to city hall and illegally surveilled them on social media using false accounts.

 

At the same time that cities across the nation are declaring themselves sanctuary cities and our own county sheriff has declared that he will not cooperate with ICE, we have a city mayor that refuses to stand up to the general assembly and declare us a sanctuary city. He instead works alongside his police director to coordinate raids with ICE and turnover our neighbors to this agency that believes it is okay to cage children at the border and rip families apart.

 

Finally, we also know that we have too many guns in Memphis and we need to reduce gun violence. We have licenses for handguns in Memphis of nearly 20,000 and we know that many more guns are on our streets illegally. We must fight to reduce this volume and ensure that our laws protect all of our citizens from further gun violence.

What's Predictable​

If nothing changes, our city’s Black and Brown citizens will continue to be locked up at disproportionate rates and will fill privatized prisons. Tennessee is home to the largest private prison company in the country.

 

Our criminal justice systems will continue to ensure these prisons and others are filled with our neighbors, our parents, children, and friends. 

 

We will continue to resist using proven tactics to create safer communities.

 

We will continue to see mass deportation raids in our immigrant community.

 

Our crime rate will continue to plague our communities and citizens, and we will continue to wage an ineffective, but deadly, war on them.

What Tami Will Fight For Instead

Tami knows we can lower our crime rate with investments in our people and youth first. When people have good paying jobs, opportunities to invest in themselves and their dreams, and people & government around them that cheer them on, they don’t turn to crime. 


Tami also knows that when crime happens, we must have a system that supports both the victim of that crime and works with the person accused of that crime for rehabilitation and reentry into our communities.

Tami's Criminal Justice Priorities

  • Hire a trauma-informed Memphis Police Director, with the people of Memphis’s input, who a) has a track-record of implementing community policing tactics, b) has experience using data to make staffing decisions, c) will publicly go on record and honor a commitment to not work with ICE, d) will instruct the MPD to not issue charges for low-level marijauna possession nor continue to serve as debt collectors in our communities by issuing tickets that only lead to suspended or revoked licenses, e) is committed to transparency and community accountability, f) supports the decriminalization of quality of life crimes, and g) can lead a culture change across the system so that it is just, compassionate, and people-focused.

  • Ensure the Memphis Police Director will establish a use of force standard that emphasizes de-escalation and the use of force only when necessary and trains all officers in de-escalation, crisis intervention, adolescent development, and proper interactions with persons with mental and physical disabilities.

  • Support a DA candidate who will refuse to prosecute low-level, nonviolent offenses; at a minimum will publish the unredacted reports for any officer-involved crimes; will publish reports on all prosecutorial decision-making; will end the use of cash-bail for at least 95% of individuals in our system; and is committed to significantly reducing pretrial detention.

  • Appoint a Deputy Police Director to focus on fighting and reducing domestic abuse and its related crimes in our city.

  • Reduce reliance on the skewed reporting and metrics of the Shelby County Crime Commission and establish an independent, city-run data reporting team that publishes accurate, bias-free crime data that includes reporting of all police-community interactions, including data (disaggregated by race) about officer-involved shootings, use of force incidents, stops, searches, and arrests.

  • Lobby the state to reduce sentences for low-level, nonviolent offenses, including marijuana possession.

  • Lobby the state to strengthen our gun-control laws to at least include a mandatory wait-time before gun purchase and end Tennessee’s status as a “stand your ground” state, while at the same time reducing the impact of “tougher” gun crime laws that specifically target Black and Brown communities.

  • Provide more community-wide education on gun safety, issue more gun locks to reduce the number of accidental deaths due to unsecured guns, and reinstitute programs that collect guns from the streets, no questions asked.

  • Support the efforts of the Citizens Law Enforcement Review Board (CLERB) and encourage the Memphis Police Department to be transparent and fair when working with CLERB.

  • Decriminalize mental health issues, drug addiction, and homelessness by investing in resources that target people who are directly impacted.

  • Invest in the education and lives of Memphians to increase opportunities and create an overall reduction in crime.

  • Reinvest in a joint Memphis & Shelby County Office of Re-Entry to provide better coordination and leveraging of resources to reduce recidivism and holistically support those reentering our communities. 

  • Create a transparent, comprehensive framework for evaluating “savings” associated with our criminal legal reforms and place these dollars into a Community Reinvestment Fund, which will be dedicated for community based non-carceral programming and infrastructure investments.

CONTRIBUTE TO BUILD MORE OPPORTUNITIES IN MEMPHIS.

Memphis youth need opportunities that prepare them for school, life, and career success.

Paid for by Tami Sawyer for Mayor, Tim Ware, Treasurer