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Memphis Mayor Creates Task Force to 'Focus Strategically' on Reducing Crime

Memphis Mayor Paul Young meets with his newly established public safety task force.
Screenshot of Press Conference Pulled from WREG Feed
Memphis Mayor Paul Young meets with his newly established public safety task force.

New Memphis Mayor Paul Young pledged a “pandemic-like” response to the city’s high level of violent crime on Thursday as he met for the first time with his nascent public safety task force.

Officials from across agencies and the political spectrum joined Young to share their work on initiatives such as the Memphis Police Department’s focus on targeting repeat offenders and proposed legislation to raise penalties for stolen firearms.

The group includes the police chief, the Shelby County district attorney, the juvenile court judge and state lawmakers.

Young acknowledged that the collective, which he said intends to meet regularly, would likely face differences but was committed to collaborating on solutions.

“We’re at a point right now where we’re at a tipping point for our community,” he said at Thursday’s press conference. “We’re either going to elevate, or we’re not. My firm belief is that we will elevate, and the way we will do it is by being unified.”

Young also said he would enforce a number of ordinances directed at police reform that the City Council passed last year in the wake of Tyre Nichols' death. The issue was raised after the online site MLK50 published a letter this week from now-former Mayor Jim Strickland that said the city did not have the authority to implement the measures.

However, Police Chief CJ Davis told reporters after the conference that the police department had already updated its policies to mirror the ordinances, according to several media outlets.

In answer to a question regarding lessons learned as the one-year anniversary of Nichols violent arrest and death approaches, Davis said it was a somber time and reflected on supporting law enforcement while holding it accountable.

She said community engagement involved “understanding that we’re here to serve our community and not to be a burden on our community and not to terrorize our community as well.”

District Attorney Steve Mulroy said his office had a “swift, and thorough and transparent” response in charging five now former MPD officers with second degree murder for Nichols beating death but that more still needed to be done.

“If there’s any silver lining to come from this very bleak tragedy is that it focuses attention on the need for reform, including police reform,” he said.

This post has been updated with Police Chief CJ Davis' comments regarding the ordinances.

Katie is a part-time WKNO contributor. She's always eager to hear your story ideas. You can email her at kriordan@wkno.org