MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong is sending a message to gang members and thugs. There is no more powerful gang in town than the Memphis Police Department, and no gang will run the cops out of a neighborhood.
The message comes as the director mapped out his community policing plan to Memphis City Council members Tuesday morning.
Right now this community policing plan will focus on crimes committed by young people. The man heading up the troops in this war is Director Toney Armstrong. He says the cops will go to two areas of the city, attack the problem, take care of it, and then work to try and keep it from happening again.
The way police look at the fight against gangsters and all the kids with guns in their hands and violence on their minds is this. If there's a problem, they are supposed to take care of the problem just like the army, says Director Armstrong.
"We will use a military approach. We'll go in, do what I call restore order. After that, we bring all the stakeholders and faith-based community in, do a rebuilding phase," he explained.
It almost sounds like a briefing at the Pentagon, but Armstrong says some neighborhoods are war zones. That's why police will use a sledgehammer lined with velvet. The Armstrong community policing plan will work only if they get rid of the problem at first.
"No gang, no thug on the street, nobody will run the police department out of a neighborhood."
That's the sledgehammer part. The velvet touch comes in after the gangs are controlled. This becomes the community part of the policing: when church leaders, along with the people of the neighborhoods and city departments all go to work to keep the problems from happening again.
Armstrong stated, "We're hoping that as we address root causes of crime that it won't necessitate us to continue the cycle of coming to a particular neighborhood, making a lot of arrests, leaving, returning, and doing the same thing over and over again."
Between sixty and seventy officers will work exclusively in the community policing program. There won't be a lot of time for donuts.
"They'll be held accountable," Armstrong said. "The officers there will be similar to the officers of organized crime. They'll be selected to work in these positions."
Director Armstrong says the key toward working with people in neighborhoods is making sure that they respect police. He admits the department might have to work on that in a few sections of the city.