Officers cleared in shelter workers’ arrest
No disciplinary action will be taken against Memphis police officers who arrested two people for f ilming them on a public sidewalk outside Manna House last year, despite a recent policy shift forbidding officers from i nterfering with citizens who record them.
After months of phone calls to the internal affairs division, Paul Garner was told his complaints against the officers were “not sustained” in a letter dated January 26 but not postmarked until April 10.
“I was proactive i n following up with them every couple of weeks to see what the status of the complaint was. It’s just really hard to get someone to call you back,” he said.
Garner was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct last October when he started filming the arrest of a colleague. The co-worker, he said, was being arrested for filming the officer’s interaction with a homeless man who was often a guest at Manna House on Jefferson.
It was one of the first in a string of similar incidents in which citizens claimed they were wrong- fully targeted by officers for filming. In December, the Memphis Police Department released a revised policy in which officers were instructed not to interfere with people lawfully filming or photographing them.
Garner said he’s had to jump through too many hoops to get a response to his complaint and that, since there is no active citizen law enforcement review board, he is left with few options.
Garner, an organizing director with Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, was among those who asked Memphis City Council members Tues- day to reactivate the citizen review board.
“If you create a process that’s inaccessible to citizens, you’re not going to have many complaints that go all the way through internal affairs because people have lives, people have families, people have jobs,” he said.
Peter Gathje, co-founder of Manna House, said he wasn’t happy with the decision to dismiss Garner’s complaints. “They were over-reaching their powers and for that they should be reprimanded. There should be a note in their file saying they acted in an inappropriate way.”