Grand Divisions

Tennessee Equality Project seeks to advance and protect the civil rights of our State’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons and their families in each Grand Division.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Letter to Memphis City Council

The Shelby County Committee of TEP sent the following letter to Memphis City Council Chairman Scott McCormick regarding the police beating of Duanna Johnson.

June 21, 2008

Councilman Scott McCormick
Memphis City Council
125 North Main Street, Room 514
Memphis, TN 38103

Dear Council Chairman McCormick,

I write to you on behalf of the Shelby County Committee of the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP), a statewide organization dedicated to promoting and sustaining the equality of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens (GLBT).

The members of TEP share the concern of many in the community over the brutal Feb. 12 attack on Duanna Johnson, a transgender African American female who was beaten by officers while in the custody of Memphis Police Department.

TEP is pleased to learn that the Memphis Police Department has begun an investigation of the incident and pursued action against the two officers involved.

We understand that the behavior of these two officers is not representative of the Memphis Police Department and recognize the important and difficult work that Memphis police officers perform every day in our city. We want to make sure, however, that the MPD has done all it can to prevent future violence toward GLBT citizens of Memphis, including the following:

  • The Shelby County Committee TEP calls upon the MPD to strengthen its requirements for diversity training. Many people of diverse cultures, traditions, ethnicities, and backgrounds call Memphis home and visit Memphis events and attractions. Memphis Police Department officers and staff must treat all people with respect and dignity regardless of race, gender, culture, religion, age, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. TEP believes that MPD employees must receive immediate, mandatory sensitivity training in working with the diverse citizens of Memphis.

  • The Shelby County Committee of TEP also calls for the MPD to reappoint a GLBT liaison to improve communication and relations with the community. Several years ago, the MPD appointed a community liaison to work with GLBT citizens and organizations. Since that time, the liaison has left the department.

Finally, the Shelby County Committee of TEP requests that the Memphis City Council hold a special committee hearing to follow-up on the results of the MPD investigation of this incident. The MPD’s actions in this matter cannot be limited to investigation and termination of the officers involved in this terrible incident. Efforts must be made to ensure systemic changes in MPD policy.


Jonathan Cole
Co-Chair of the Shelby County Committee of TEP

Cc: Memphis City Council, Mayor Willie W. Herenton, Press, Christopher Sanders, President of TEP

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