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.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

MPD fires Officer Bridges McRae, but what about past complaints?

The Memphis Police Department fired Officer Bridges McRae for his misconduct immediately after an administrative hearing this afternoon. McRae is the officer who used handcuffs in his fist like brass knuckles to beat Duanna Johnson in the face on Feb. 12 at 201 Poplar. James Swain, another officer who held Johnson in her chair while McRae beat her, was immediately fired after the incident since he was still on probation.

WMC-TV uncovered five past complaints against McRae in his personnel file that were investigated by Internal Affairs and included racial slurs and a reference to the Aryan Nation.

The City of Memphis has a Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board that reviews civilian complaints after Internal Affairs completes investigations. The mission of the Board is to investigate citizen complaints of police misconduct in order to enhance and promote a better working relationship between the City of Memphis Police Department and the citizens of Memphis. The Board has the power to receive, investigate, hear cases, make findings and recommend action on complaints concerning the City of Memphis Police Officers. The Board is appointed by the Mayor and approved by the City Council.

What is really surprising is that Internal Affairs determined that all five complaints against McRae were "Not Sustained." Guess who Internal Affairs works for? The Director of Police.

If the Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board has to rely on the evidence and results of investigations completed by Internal Affairs, is there any wonder why all five complaints against McRae were "Not Sustained?" How can the Board truly conduct an unbiased hearing of a complaint against officers when they are basing decisions on evidence and internal investigations provided to them by the Memphis Police Department?

When you watch the video of McRae beating Duanna Johnson and you look at the types of complaints filed against McRae in the past, it begs the question: was McRae a ticking time bomb?

How many other investigations of police misconduct have been found to be "Not Sustained?"

It may be time to suggest reforms that call for the function of Internal Affairs to be removed from the Memphis Police Department to ensure that investigations remain independent. A new Office of Alleged Misconduct Review - answerable to the Mayor instead of the Director of Police - might have a better chance of catching the bad apples in the bunch before more serious incidents occur.

UPDATE on today's local media coverage of McRae's firing:
  • Commercial Appeal - includes a poll question: Has justice been served with the firing of the officer caught on video beating a transgendered suspect in the booking area?
  • WREG News Channel 3
  • WMCTV 5 News - Memphis Police Association president J.D. Sewell disrespectfully refers to Duanna Johnson as "Mr. Johnson" in this coverage.
  • Fox 13
  • The Memphis Flyer has a story on last Monday's community meeting at First Congregational Church and an updated story on McRae's firing.

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