Community leaders call out ‘lack of transparency’ surrounding selection of new Memphis Police director

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Some city and community leaders have questions about the process of selecting the city’s next police director.

When it comes to the process of selecting the next leader of the Memphis Police Department, some feel one key factor is missing.

“I don’t think there has been nearly enough community input,” said Pastor Earle Fisher of Abyssinian Missionary Baptist Church. “I think it’s consistent with the pattern that this administration has engaged in.”

Earlier this week, Mayor Jim Strickland announced Durham Chief Cerelyn Davis as his pick for police chief. It immediately brought up concerns about transparency in the selection process.

In response, the city announced a public Q&A with Davis.

“This is probably the most important hire a mayor can make, and if you want the buy-in, you can’t go through a process that has lacked transparency and at the last minute say, ‘We’re being transparent now,’” said Memphis City Councilman Martavius Jones.

The forum is virtual due to COVID-19 and requires the community to register and submit questions online.

“I think the virtual forum is set up with such a structure as to try to quell what potentially may be some reasonable and righteous dissent or concerns,” Fisher said.

Fisher says that type of input is important when we talk about reimagining policing.

“It’s about what it means to cultivate a process that adequately includes the broadest representation of the community, because all of us are ultimately going to be subjected to the policing practices that are going to come out of this department,” Fisher said.

Those concerns have little to do with the actual candidate, though. If approved, Davis would become the first woman to lead the department.

“I believe that the director should be confirmed,” Fisher said. “I think she has a history of service and some credentials. I think she marks a necessary symbolic barrier being shattered, and all of these things are great.”

Jones says the outcome of this forum will likely determine his vote.

“It’s going to weigh heavily on my decision to support this nomination, because the police director has to interact with this entire community,” Jones said.

Thursday night, the Twitter link to submit questions and register for the forum was down. The city says the website was doing a system update and that forum will happen as planned.

Questions are due by 12 p.m. central time on Wednesday, April 28.

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