On April 14, the Justice & Safety Alliance (JSA) shared a presentation with journalists
outlining a newly formed Juvenile Crime Abatement Team within the Memphis Police
Department (MLK50 Article). The JSA firmly opposes the plan outlined in this presentation, which is
now “on pause” after articles on the team’s existence were published. Our coalition of
community-based advocates demands further commitment from MPD that it will stop
the use of racial profiling and targeted task forces — for juveniles and adults.

Created by department leadership, this new specialized unit will end up racially
profiling, surveilling, and criminalizing young people based on racist generalizations
and failed stop-and-frisk policies. It is an intentional policing policy change focused on
Downtown Memphis and represents an egregious, racist conception of public safety that
would violate the civil rights of young people and undermine trust between the
community and law enforcement.

The timing of this announcement is particularly alarming, coming just months after a
SCORPION task force killed Tyre Nichols and just days after the City Council finished
passing a slate of community-supported police reforms. Despite clear and consistent
community calls to end pretextual stops, eliminate the use of plain clothes officers, and
disband specialized units, this Juvenile Crime Abatement Team:

● Creates a new specialized unit to target children,
● Allows for pretextual pedestrian stops that criminalize normal teen behavior, and
● Employs plain clothes officers to carry out these stops.

If they choose to implement this plan despite all of the community pushback, MPD will
further erode trust between law enforcement and the people they are supposed to
protect and serve.

We cannot allow policies and practices like these to persist in our city. Young people in
Memphis deserve better. They deserve a city that invests in their education and safety,
not one that puts them on a path to prison and family separation. We must work
together to build a city where young people, regardless of their race or income, can
thrive and reach their full potential. We remain committed to working towards justice
and safety for all in Memphis.

We are deeply disturbed and saddened by yesterday’s horrific shootings, on the heels of the kidnapping and murder of Eliza Fletcher, among so many other instances of violent crime in our community. Our hearts are with the people who were shot and killed yesterday, and with their families and loved ones. We grieve with the survivors, knowing how hard it will be to heal from this trauma of gun violence. We are also grateful for all of the emergency responders who risked their lives to keep the rest of us safe. 

All of us have the right to feel safe and secure, to know that we can walk around outside in our hometown without fear of violence. When we work together with the goal of authentic safety, accountability, and healing, we can create an environment where violence prevention is prioritized, so that this level of emergency response is no longer necessary. While well-intentioned, the default reaction of calling for more police and more punitive prison sentences has failed to make our communities safer. We cannot keep using the same responses to violent crime and expect different results. 

In order to reach true public safety, we need to create systems of care that ensure everyone has their basic needs met – access to housing, healthy food, education, transportation, healthcare, and mental healthcare. These solutions won’t happen overnight, so in the near term, we must invest in mental health support systems for youth and adults that will prevent horrific crimes like this from happening. These systems of care include early therapeutic interventions, crisis interventions that support healing, and diversion programs to keep people in their communities and accountable to healing. 

Our city and our communities are strong and resilient. We’re keeping all of Memphis in our hearts, and we hope everyone is able to take some time and breathe, hug someone you love, and rest today. Take care of yourselves, together we’ll rise up to create a brighter future for us all.