MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Shelby County Sheriff’s Office is allowing civilians to assist in hiring possible candidates. Council members are pushing for the Memphis Police Department to follow in efforts to build the community’s trust.
Sheriff Floyd Bonner got the idea to let citizens help hire his deputies about a year ago. He selected pastors, activists and other community stakeholders to sit on a civilian hiring committee.
“I was driving down the interstate one day and was trying to think of a way to get the community more engaged with the sheriff’s office,” said Bonner.
They interview candidates right before the chiefs conduct their interview. Bonner said they compare notes in the end and both scores are weighed the same.
The committee can come up with their own questions but he wants them to get personal.
“To find out an applicant’s background, the thought process, what he believes in, this true north if you will,” Bonner said.
Vickie Terry, the executive director of the NAACP Memphis branch, sat on the hiring committee for the past year.
“I think if the Memphis police department takes on this process, I think it will go over great,” said Terry, who also sits on Strickland’s advisory council.
Following protests after George Floyd’s murder last year, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland vowed to Reimagine Policing.
Part of his plan was to create an advisory group of clergy members, legislative leaders, civil rights activists and law enforcement officers to act as the liaison between the community and Memphis police.
For the last year, that group met with residents across the city, evaluated police services, then drew up a list of recommendations to improve MPD.
Implementing the sheriff’s civilian hiring committee was on that list.
Shelby County Commissioner Van Turner, another member of Strickland’s council, said allowing citizens to help with the hiring will build trust.
“This was a great idea and hopefully, Chief Davis will implement that program in the city as well,” Turner said.
Memphis Police Chief CJ Davis received the recommendations In June. While she didn’t address the hiring committee specifically, she said that this week, the recommendations will be a part of a three-to-five year strategic plan she’s been drafting.
“We plan to implement the recommendations that have been forwarded by the Reimagining Policing task force,” Davis said.
As for Sheriff Bonner, he says he would be willing to help MPD implement a hiring committee if they ask.
Bonner says other law enforcement agencies from across the country have reached out about the hiring committee and how to implement it. He said with his next move, he wants to expand the hiring committee for future correctional officers.
We will let you know if and when any of the reimagining policing advisory council’s recommendations are implemented.