Memphis, TN. In the wake of the ACLU’s civil rights victory over the City and MPD, Celitria Watson and April Malone are bringing a lawsuit against the City, County and six officials for evidence tampering and prosecutorial misconduct.
In our most recent post, we revealed the extent of MPD’s Authorization of Agency (AoA) program, inspired by Memphis Shelby County Crime Commission (MSCCC).
We saw the racial disparity in the initial AoA post. The profiling nature of the scheme, with seven times (84.9% vs 12.3%) the number of Black versus white victims of AoA is confirmed.
We broke down AoAs by the year the initial AoA was signed. 2018 is low because only half a year of data was collected. Years 211 through 2016 are incomplete because we asked in our FOIA for all AoAs between December 1st 216 and July 9th 2018. All precincts but one simply sent all their AoA data rather than selecting the data range we asked for. In addition, we noted many AoAs which were signed on a given date and had additional lines added over the same signature and date later. We have not quantified this factor as of yet but we think it will skew a couple of percent of the dates earlier.
We adjusted the yearly graph by doubling up the 2018 number to estimate a full year, and we added 15% to 2016 and earlier to account for the number of AoAs missing in our sample.
The graphs look similar. From small beginnings in 2011, the scheme grew to about 240 in 2014, then took a big jump to 665 in 2016 and plateaued out to around 600 each in 2017-2018.
We need to look for the impetus behind the 2014 and 2016 bumps. Most likely, some form of marketing or promotional assets were assigned to the program to cause these bumps. We’ll also submit another ORR to obtain the missing data.
We created a new field in the spreadsheet for business category and ran this report. The biggest category is apartment, which also includes mobile home parks, condos, retirement communities and townhouses.
The dominance of this sector may be the result of “Operation Safeway” which had a focus on apartment managers. The majority of these had a just a few AoAs, but complexes like Greenbrier with 48 AoAs and a dozen or so with double digits stand out. Clearly a number of apartment managements embraced the scheme enthusiastically.
The retail sector is largely a handful of AoAs in each store. All branches of chain stores are included. Three chains of dollar stores (Family Dollar, Dollar General, and Dollar Tree) had a total of 38 AoAs, which probably reflects the dollar stores’ well known skimping on security staff. Other chains with large numbers includes Walgreens with 24 and Kroger with 17. Otherwise, few retailers had more than three or four per location.
We think that, like with the apartment sector, that the heavy retail users had an internal policy to use AoA while the light users were probably recruited by police.
The food sector includes all vendors of prepared food and alcohol by the drink. The chains with most branches are the biggest offenders, and CiCi’s Pizza in Poplar Plaza’s 17 AoAs were associated with a well-publicized disturbance at the venue. We know that Operation Safeway targeted food establishments in certain areas, but we think that most of the rest may have been instigated by MPD, including the CiCi’s incident.
The hotel/motel sector includes hotels, motels and boarding houses, has a few stand-outs, probably related to prostitution. The manufacturing sector, though small, is dominated by Smith and Nephew who initiated 85 of the 100 AoAs. This is an anomaly which probably reflects a decision in management to use MPD as part of its security apparatus.
The gas sector looks very much like retail, and when you eliminate the effect of supplier chains like Shell or Exxon, not much stands out.
Public facilities include the downtown MATA terminus, with 24 AoAs and three at the Zoo. We talked about the Zoo political blacklist in the original AoA post. We dispute the legality of public entities barring members of the public.
Churches banned 37 people. It sounds unchristian to us to put people in the system. Even worse, schools had 35 AoAs, and we cannot envision a world where young people can be legally barred from education, or even where a school would involve the police in its disciplinary process.
We see some high-frequency users of AoA. These AoAs are probably due to business policy and may have been influenced by Operation Safeway in some way. The vast majority of AoAs have the potential of being instigated by police, including a handful where we know the case history.
We will follow up with additional analysis, including enriching the data and sampling some case histories to determine the marketing initiatives that shape the AoA usage curves.
This week has been a game changer. Memphis history will forever be divided into the pre-ACLU era and the post-ACLU era. MPD in particular is in crisis, and, because of role of public safety in our local elections, the crisis extends into the political sphere.
The trial itself.
We saw a steady stream of MPD brass take the stand and be defensive. The City strategy has been to try to make the police look reasonable, and to paint the activists as crazy fools. This strategy plain failed, as Paul Garner, Elaine Blanchard, Earle Fisher and Keedran Franklin presented well on the stand. It is notable that the City did not send Jim Strickland or any of the”public safety” advocates to defend their police buddies.
The defense cut their losses on Thursday and pulled the plug on trying to discredit more activists or putting more police on the stand. Essentially, they accepted defeat after a very poor display of legal skills.
MPD is not a monolith. It has leaders jockeying for position as the next director, a large number of disaffected members who are still disgruntled over pensions and benefits, a degenerate and poorly led MPA and a sizeable contingent of out and out racists who are chafing at being led by an African American director.
We can expect instability at MPD. At this point I see little benefit in stirring the pot at MPD. We’ve stirred. Stirring done.
At this point we need to be concerned that the police will revert to form and lash out at civilians and activists. We suggest extreme care in interactions with police as we await the verdict from the trial. We have no need to provoke further reactions from MPD. We’ve already unleashed the nuclear option.
Strickland’s administration has not been watching the backs of their police. He has been declining to comment on the sub-judice proceedings. We expect this to continue.
In the meantime, the hitherto solid eight or nine vote pro-police Council block is already showing signs of fragmenting. Joe Brown and Edmund Ford are term limited and won’t need to expend political capital on defending the police.
Berlin Boyd is up for re-election. He has been at odds with the Kemp Conrad knee-jerk brand of police support, voting against Conrad in the August 2016 marijuana ordinance. Boyd knows that he needs to put some distance between himself and the law and order lobby. He’s been reaching out to certain activists with some truly strange proposals.
Jamita Swearengen, as the new chairman of the Public Safety Committee, has been conventionally pro-police, generally following the MPD’s COP community policing line. She made a speech at CLERB extolling Blue Crush and the deployment of 490 new spycams, which City Council approved a budget of $1.5M for on July 10th.
Patrice Robinson has not been saying a lot about policing.
Of the white Council members, all part of the Caissa group, the more extreme police fans like Kemp Conrad and Reid Hedgepeth, with Bill Morrison, are term limited. We might see some posturing from them. Ford Canale remains a cypher, although he rang the Public Safety bell in his August election campaign, apparently with less effect than his predecessor.
We don’t see much incentive for Council members to expend political capital on defending police prerogatives. In fact, we think some of the previous pro-police coalition, especially Berlin Boyd, are already maneuvering to create some advantage for themselves.
Activists have ling sought a strengthening of CLERB powers. CLERB needs subpoena power, and the ability to make binding recommendations for disciplinary actions and policy and procedure changes. Look to Memphis United, fresh from Paul Garner’s performance on the witness stand, to be making proposals. In addition, it appears that the administration has successfully sabotaged the ability of CLERB to post documents on its own website and on the City archive site.
It’s hard not to see the canny Garner taking advantage of MPD’s predicament.
Mike Rallings, as the officer who presided over the decline in MPD political interference, and because of his unconvincing defense of his policies on the stand, is damaged goods. He has been left dangling by his political masters. There is no question that he can survive past the election of the next mayor in 2019. He either takes control of his fate and resigns, or the political upheaval that now starts will result in his firing.
Rallings has been fully vested in his MPD pension plan for about a year.
It seems very clear that a new director can’t come from the culturally compromised MPD. The next Police Director must be chosen on the basis of a proven record of community policing. The internal candidates who have been preened as Ralling’s successor are infected with the racial disease that infects the force and will be rejected.
The 2019 City elections
The current mayor and most of City Council were elected in 2015 with dog-whistle campaigns, evoking public safety with racial coding to get elected. The dog whistle was already losing its effectiveness. J Ford Canale blew the dog whistle in the Super 9-2 election and his vote was down 25% on Philip Spinosa’s 2015 performance. David Lenoir used the dog whistle in the County Mayor election and was convincingly defeated by Lee Harris.
Incumbents will be forced to run on other issues. Insurgent candidates will focus on poverty, economics and policing, where incumbents have a dreadful record. Strickland has not been brilliant at the basics. The Caissa Seven have been exposed as the next best thing to a political conspiracy.
Expect a lot of surprises as incumbents and challengers jockey for position and make economic arguments. Expect opponents to rally around retaining IRV in the December referenda, and issues like EDGE, economic development, energy policy, CLERB, policing and poverty to be well aired in the election runup.
Policing has been the lynch-pin of Memphis politics, especially in the last election cycle. The pin has been pulled from this grenade.
People need to be very careful out in the streets.
In the halls of power, expect surprises. 2019 will be fought and won on real policies, not the stalking horses of yore.