Saturday, November 17, 2007

City or County? Who should drive?

I have worked for both the SCSO and the MPD, so I am uniquely qualified to make an objective assessment of this issue. I have made every attempt to remove any of my personal prejudices and merely present facts in this assessment.

Last year, I retired as a lieutenant, after 32 years with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. I am now a technical consultant with the Memphis Police Department. I have many friends who work with the SCSO, and many who are employed by the MPD. Many members of my family, including my father, three uncles, three cousins and two brothers have been in law enforcement, mostly working with the MPD. After many years of observing each agency, I have to conclude that a unified enforcement effort would be best, but it should be headed by the MPD.

Here are several factors which I believe dictate that the MPD handle law enforcement for Shelby County and the Sheriff manage the jail and courts:

1. The MPD has over 2100 commissioned officers and the majority are assigned to uniformed patrol. The SCSO has just over 300 (approximately 200 work in the courts or other areas not related to patrol). That means the MPD is over 20 times larger than the SCSO in it's enforcement division.
2. The MPD has many more areas of expertise than the SCSO, where they have more than a token presence such as; the bomb squad, crime scene, aviation, DUI, horse patrol, traffic, Organized Crime, Uniformed Patrol, training, etc.
3. The SCSO has roughly 100 officers assigned to Uniformed Patrol. Each of the nine MPD precincts has that many or more.
4. The MPD’s training is much better than the SCSOs. They have a larger staff, better resources, and place a greater emphasis on specialized training.
5. The MPD will soon have the Real Time Crime Center where crime fighting will be directed – proactively.
6. Director Godwin has risen through the ranks. He understands the job, from the patrolman’s - to the Chief’s perspective. This is his area of expertise.
7. Sheriff Luttrell has done a good job with the jail. He was raised on the Penal Farm. This is his area of expertise.
8. The MPD is innovative in law enforcement, as evidenced by Blue Crush, City Watch, CyberWatch and other programs.
9. The SCSO is innovative in the jail, as evidenced by their personal supervision and other approaches that have lead to the removal of Federal Court overseers.
10. The MPD has a plan to assist crime fighting over a 75 mile radius – working with agencies in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee.
11. The MPD has partnered with the University of Memphis for assistance in developing the Real Time Crime Center and obtaining grant funding.
12. The MPD already makes more warrant arrests than the SCSO and could absorb the warrant operation (about 55 officers) by folding warrant service into uniformed patrol. This would give 24/7 coverage in each ward (currently - 60 wards), where the SCSO only puts four or five cars, per shift, on the street for the entire county.
13. The MPD could use the 55 fugitive officers in the Blue Crush initiative which would result in a better use of resources.
14. The MPD has one purpose – fighting crime. The SCSO has multiple responsibilities (jail, courts, law enforcement), fewer resources and a rapidly diminishing area of enforcement responsibility – they will soon lose Bridgewater and more area in southeast Shelby County to annexation.
15. Most areas across the country that have consolidated law enforcement have gone with the metropolitan police, not the Sheriff.
16. There is no requirement that a Sheriff be experienced in the “art of law enforcement”; which leads one to ask, “do we want someone leading our crime fighting effort who has no experience in that area?”
17. The argument that the Sheriff is more responsive to the public than a Police Director is specious. Either way, there is an elected official who is ultimately responsible for the effort.

I’m not convinced it will be much cheaper to consolidate both enforcement efforts, but I do think it will work better. It only makes sense to stratify the crime fight, and it also only makes sense that we choose an agency whose expertise is in the area of fighting crime. You wouldn’t choose a dentist to represent you in court, and we shouldn’t put a jail expert in charge of law enforcement.


Anonymous said...

Excellent points. It will not be more cost saving to merge - as can be attested by the other LE agencies that came to Memphis to discuss consolidation with the committee - but it will be more efficient and that is the overall goal. It will also be easier for the MPD to absorb the smaller SCSO than the other way around.

Anonymous said...

Spot on, Mr. Harvey. The sheriff's office does do a pretty good job of managing the courts and jail but the "policing," in a consolidated Memphis/Shelby County should be left up to the MPD.

Much better to have an experienced chief who is still ultimately responsible to an elected official than an elected official with no experience in actual policing who is only responsible to the voters once every 4 years and then is judged as much on his PR/campaign efforts as his (or her) actual abilities.

Hopefully your expert opinion, in this area, will be considered.