MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - A major change in Memphis crime fighting is in the works as a group of city police and sheriff's deputies band together to fight a war. For the first time in several years, the area is about to see a metro unit of city and county law enforcement officers whose only purpose will be to break up gangs.
While an official announcement is still pending, work is underway to bring back the partnership between agencies.
According to Chip Washington with the Shelby County Sheriff's Office, "More is better."
Of course it is. More money, more vacation time, more of this, more of that - of course more is better. But in this case, 'more' might save some lives.
"In particular, when we're talking about being out on the streets and getting perpetrators locked up at 201 Poplar, I think more is definitely better," Washington stated.
For as long as Memphis has been Memphis, there's been a city police department and a Shelby Count Sheriff's department basically doing the same jobs; Memphis did it in Memphis and Shelby County did it everywhere else.
Departments fight for money, and just about everybody agrees that getting more tax money out of the people of Memphis and Shelby County would be like trying to get water out of a rock. So the departments are on the verge of going back to a program they had a few years ago. Take some city cops, some county deputies, and mix them all together, and what you've got is a crime fighting unit that would make Starsky and Hutch wish they were real. And, let that group fight the gangs.
Washington told abc24.com, "District Attorney General Weirich, Director Armstrong, Ed Stanton and, of course, Sheriff Oldham are meeting now to discuss the formation of a new gang task force."
There was a Metro Gang Unit in effect until several years ago. At the time, Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin wanted to be the man in charge of his own people, so the metro unit broke up. In a way, it's ironic that for years, police and sheriff's deputies had their own turf wars in this area.
Millions of your tax dollars go into fighting gangs, getting rid of the graffiti, and paying for police and deputies to patrol areas. This renewed partnership has something to do with budgets and money, but more to do with just getting the job done.
"It's good to have a good working relationship as they seem to have," Washington said of the Sheriff's Office and MPD. "Anything they can do to help protect the citizens of Memphis and Shelby County is a plus."
I bet I know what you're thinking: protect the citizens, blah blah blah. But cops and deputies go to work and that's what they do. Put all the politics aside and the job of law enforcement is pure and simple: protect people, get the bad guys. In this case the gangs are their targets, with work slowly wrapping up on what will be a new Metro Gang Unit.
Departments can't do it alone. Now they are doing what MPD Director Toney Armstrong and Sheriff Bill Oldham both promised they would do. If it means joining forces, then that's what they'll do.
Washington said, "They've met twice now and things are going very well and hopefully they'll have a big announcement very, very soon."