Weekly Update: Peaks and Valleys

Weekly Update Header

Having trouble viewing this email? View it as a Web page.

Bookmark and Share


As the saying goes, “throughout the course of our lives there will be peaks, and there will be valleys”. I don’t think I would get too much disagreement if I said that right now we are in a valley. When I say we, I mean that from a global perspective. We’re in the middle of a pandemic the likes of which we have not seen in more than 100 years while at the same time, experiencing civil unrest and uncertainty not just here but all across the globe.

Now, the good thing about the valleys we experience is that at some point we start that climb back up to the peak. I’m not saying that we’re there yet or even close to being there, but we are making progress in some areas here locally.

One area is police reform. This past Tuesday, City Council voted overwhelming in committee to recommend the adoption of the “8 can’t wait” rules to limit police use of force. The great news is our police department is already practicing them. The rules and where we stand on them are as follows:

1. Ban Chokeholds and Strangleholds—BANNED—POLICY IN PLACE

Choke holds of any kind are strictly prohibited during the course of effecting an arrest or after a subject has been handcuffed. This would include the use of hands, arms, knees, feet or one’s body weight to restrict a subject’s ability to breathe. This prohibition is outlined in MPD Policy and Procedure and is supported by the following state law:

TCA § 38-3-121. Choke holds; restrictions on use (2019)

No law enforcement officer shall use a choke hold or other similar respiratory restraining maneuver, with or without the use of a police baton, on any suspect, defendant or other person unless other methods of restraint are ineffective. Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the use of the lateral vascular maneuver.

While the above statute does not prohibit the use of the lateral vascular maneuver, MPD officers are prohibited from using this self-defense technique. The only exception for the use of any choke hold would be if an officer was otherwise justified to do so in self-defense where the officer has been attacked with deadly force, is being threatened with the use of deadly force, or where the officer has probable cause and reasonably perceives an immediate threat of deadly force.

2. Require de-escalation—REQUIRED— POLICY IN PLACE

Officers are required and trained to de-escalate situations, where possible, by communicating with subjects, maintaining distance, and otherwise eliminating the need to use force. De-escalation enables an officer when practicable to initiate specific actions to defuse an event where the use of force would be legally justified at that time. This may be accomplished through both verbal and tactical actions which may include: containment, securing backup, using cover or requesting CIT.

3. Require warning before shooting—REQUIRED WHEN FEASABLE— POLICY IN PLACE

Where feasible, the officer has identified himself/herself as a police officer and given warning such as, “STOP--POLICE--I'LL SHOOT,” that deadly force is about to be used unless flight ceases; AND If all other means of apprehension available to the officer under the attendant circumstances have been exhausted.

4. Exhaust all alternatives before shooting—REQUIRED— POLICY IN PLACE

Officers shall use only the NECESSARY amount of force that is consistent with the accomplishment of their duties, and must exhaust every other reasonable means of prevention, apprehension, or defense before resorting to the use of deadly force.

5. Duty to intervene—REQUIRED— POLICY IN PLACE

Any member who directly observes another member engaged in dangerous or
criminal conduct or abuse of a subject shall take reasonable action to intervene.
A member shall immediately report to the Department any violation of policies and regulations or any other improper conduct which is contrary to the policy, order or directives of the Department. For sworn employees this reporting requirement also applies to allegations of uses of force not yet reported.


The use of DEADLY FORCE is prohibited: From or at any moving vehicle, except in a case where an officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect committed a violent felony and the poses a direct threat of serious bodily injury or death to other persons if not immediately apprehended. If the officer is in the path of the vehicle, the officer’s first responsibility, if possible, is to move from the path of the oncoming vehicle, as shooting the driver of a moving vehicle raises the danger from an uncontrolled vehicle. Officers should not intentionally place themselves in the path of a moving vehicle or reach inside of a moving vehicle; or in any case, where the officer does not have a clear field of fire and cannot be reasonably certain that only the suspect will be hit and that the potential for harm to innocent persons is minimum.

7. Require use of force continuum—REQUIRED— POLICY IN PLACE


1. Physical Presence
2. Verbal Warnings
3. Verbal Commands
4. Chemical Agents
5. Empty Hands Control (Soft and Hard)
6. Impact Weapons/Less Lethal Weapons/MPD Canine
7. Deadly Force

Officers must be aware that this is a dynamic continuum where an officer can be justified in instantly escalating from the lowest level of force to Deadly Force without having to stop and utilize each and every step in between. The Officer can also de-escalate from a higher level of force to one of the lower levels without stopping at each lower level. The Officer’s experience and training are his guides as to which level of force to use in each situation.

8. Require comprehensive reporting—REQUIRED— POLICY IN PLACE

It is the responsibility of all officers utilizing both deadly and less than lethal force to complete a Response to Resistance Form. The Response to Resistance incident will be submitted to the supervisor for approval prior to the end of the officer’s shift. The Supervisor will ensure that the report has been completed, and will review the incident for any departmental concerns regarding policy and procedures, training, equipment and/or officer conduct.

Now, this is not to say that we’re done and don’t need to do anything more. It’s to point out that while we’re not perfect, we’re taking another step towards climbing back up to that peak. And, our conversations with City Council, protest leaders, clergy, and community leaders will continue and will result in better policies and training.

Earlier this week after many questions of where I stand on the issue, I made a statement about defunding our police department to increase funding to other areas. I’m opposed to defunding our police department for two reasons.

First, over the last four and half years and in partnership with City Council, we’ve increased funding to libraries; community centers; made summer camps free; increased our youth summer jobs program by 90 percent; began funding assistance to the homeless; created Manhood University, W.O.W.S, and the Public Service Corps for those who need second chances; and funded universal needs-based Pre-K.

Second, our violent crime rate is too high, and we are hundreds of officers below where we were in 2011. Over the same time period last year, while our overall crime rate has decreased, we’ve experienced a 16.7 percent increase in our violent crime rate. With that fact in mind, I believe cutting funding from the Memphis Police Department is unwise. And frankly, it’s out of touch with the majority of city residents. The New York Times discussed a poll recently, and it showed that only 16% of Americans favor defunding the police. For context here locally, last year during my campaign the number one issue with Memphis voters was crime and the majority of citizens were supportive of hiring more officers and voted to increase the taxes they pay to do it.

I say all that to say this—we are not perfect, but we are working every day to get better. I’m grateful for the leaders and participants of the peaceful protests we’re having and what they represent. I’m grateful that the City Council is presenting more ways for us as a government to be more open and more transparent. And finally, I am very thankful to our Director, Mike Rallings, and the men and women of the Memphis Police Department for what they do every day to protect and serve our city (for example, 10 officers have been shot at in six incidents over the last two weeks).

At the end of the day, it’s important that we all remember we have more in common with each other than we think. And, while we may differ on the path to getting out of our valley, we all want to make it to the peak.


Mayor's signature