MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Many residents of South Memphis and Orange Mound are angry, tired and fed up with all the crime in their communities. They lashed out at Mayor A C Wharton and Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong during a community town hall meeting at Mt. Moriah East Baptist Church.
The public listed several problems: growing gang violence, drugs, murders almost every weekend, and other crimes. The people say the answers the mayor and what the police director gave were not good enough to address all the issues.
"A police officer assaulted me in front of her 8-year-old daughter,” said Trendalar Gipson, who says some police officers take their power out of control.
“There are no young people here in the meeting. We need to get them involved and have more activities for them," said another concerned citizen, Suhail Shaheed.
Councilwoman Wanda Halbert represents the area, District 4, and she read a whole list of problems.
"Number 1 is urban violence; number 2, we need employment opportunities for ex-offenders. Number 3, trust those that are hired to protect us. Number 4, more opportunities or activities for our youth. Lastly, number 5, we need a community-based drug gang prevention program,” said Councilwoman Halbert.
Parents say not having extra curricular activities for kids makes many of them stray to gangs and drugs. Mayor Wharton says a lot of that has to do with the city budget.
"We are focusing on the youth but we don't have all the money locally to support more programs,” stated Mayor Wharton.
Reverend Dwight Montgomery, president the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, hosted the meeting. He addressed the “bad cop” problem.
“We shouldn't be angry at the mayor or Director Armstrong because of few bad officers,” said Rev. Montgomery.
Director Armstrong says 23 police officers were locked up last year, that's about 1 percent of the police force.
“We don't have a perfect criminal justice system but our disciplinary action works. Don’t focus on 23 bad officers out of the 2,400 good officers,” said Armstrong.
Some people also suggested more sky cop cameras. Director Armstrong says MPD just purchased 10 new ones. Each one costs $30,000 and the city can’t afford to put one in every neighborhood. Director Armstrong says that is not the solution to deter crime and cops can't do it all - parents need to step up.
"We got away from nosy neighbors, people need to get involved,” said Director Armstrong. “We have each other to address crime."
Other issues and recommendations the public talked about: having more neighborhood watch groups and creating mandatory programs for police officers that show signs of post traumatic stress.