Behind the Headlines – August 2, 2019

Behind the Headlines – August 2, 2019


– (female announcer)
Production funding for Behind the Headlines
is made possible in part by: the WKNO Production Fund, the WKNO Endowment Fund, and by viewers like you.
Thank you. – Memphis Police
Director Mike Rallings tonight on Behind the Headlines. [dramatic orchestral music] I’m Eric Barnes with
The Daily Memphian. Thanks for joining us. I am joined tonight
by Mike Rallings, Memphis Police Director. Thanks for coming back. – Well thank you for having me. – Along with Bill Dries, reporter with The
Daily Memphian. We’ll talk about all kinds
of things that are goin’ on, that are goin’ on in your world. But we’ll start with
a couple of things that are probably top of
mind for a lot of people, one of which is the
kind of flood of police, state troopers as well, but we’ll just talk about the
police on the interstates. And I mean I think the
other day I was driving back from the studio to downtown, I think I saw five
Memphis police cars, three of ’em had
people pulled over. Driving into the studio today I think I saw three or four with two or three
of them pulled over. What is that about
and what is the point, and how long will it last? – Well I’m not sure how
long it’s gonna last. And actually some of
it has been goin’ on for a number of years. We definitely were concerned about the number of
road rage incidents and shootings on the interstate. But we’ve always been concerned about the number of
fatalities and crashes that happen on the interstate. And so the officers
are out there to help our citizens demonstrate
kind and considerate behavior when some are not able
to do it on their own. And it’s interesting you
brought up the interstate. Myself and a Sheriff
Deputy pulled over a young man yesterday
on the way to work. His excuse was he
was late for work. And I said, “Well did you
help your situation out any?” Driving very aggressively, thinking that he created
an unsafe condition. But we just want people to be
able to travel to and fro work and from visiting and travelin’
through the city safely. – And let’s break
down road rage, and the incidents that
have happened with guns. Are these mostly… I mean, when I hear road rage, I think of somebody
who just gets so mad ’cause they got cut off or someone’s in their way. And they pull a gun out
and they either wave it or they shoot it at a car. I mean is that what you… When you say, road
rage, what do you mean? – Well, I think
you did a good job of shaping what I
think road rage is. But when aggressive driving, it may not be to the
level of road rage, but it does create
a unsafe condition. Road rage for me is
when someone is driving and from the incidents
that we’ve had, get cut off, or
someone won’t move over and people get upset. And unfortunately, with the
state legislature extending the home-to-the-car, and allowing people without
a permit to carry a gun, they’ve made the access
to a firearm very easy and it appears that a
lot of individuals choose to pull a gun or shoot a gun when they should
just be driving on. – I’ll go to Bill
after this question. Just to break… When your folks have
pulled people over or have arrested people
for a road rage with a gun, where they’ve shot. What is their explanation? I mean, are they shooting at… I know this seems strange maybe, but I really am so curious
about the mentality of this. Are they shooting at the driver? Are they trying to shoot a tire? Or are they just
shooting in the air to sort of scare someone? Or is it any of those? – Yeah, we’ve seen
probably all of the above. – Okay. – Mostly it appears that
they’re shooting at the car. But when you fire a gun, in the city limits, especially on the interstate. You don’t know where
that bullet’s gonna land. That’s reckless, it’s
an aggravated assault. And we’re gonna continue to
work with the state legislature to increase the
penalties for road rage, shooting at someone
from a vehicle. And I applaud Mayor Strickland for tryin’ to work
with the legislature. I’ll continue to work
with the legislation. And I hope that the other
state representatives try to do somethin’ about it because it is a problem. But it is a problem
that they created. – Yeah, yeah. Bill. – And the state law
in this to be clear, if someone gets upset while
they’re out there on the road for whatever reason, and they pull out their
gun and they fire a shot at another car and they miss, the state law doesn’t treat that as seriously as it does
if they hit someone? – So– – Am I right on that, or? – Well what you describe
sounds like it would probably be a reckless endangerment, but it could be a
aggravated assault. The issue though
is that we think that the penalty
should be increased. There should be some
mandatory jail time, stiffer penalties. And also, we definitely
want the state to hire more Tennessee
highway patrol troopers to patrol Memphis. We’re the largest
county in the state. You’re talkin’ about
73 million people estimated a year travelin’ through our highways
and our byways. And I think that with us
generating so much revenue, most populus county, that we deserve the
level of service that our citizens
need to keep safe. – So just the presence
of the police officers there on the interstate, is that having an effect? Are people calming down– – Oh, without a doubt. There’s not a day that goes by when someone is not thanking me for the presence of the
officers on the interstate. You may have heard that recently an officer made a stop and we ran into a
homicide suspect. We’re recovering guns and drugs, wanted individuals. But the biggest issue is safety. We have 33,000 crashes every
single year, in Memphis. Hundreds of fatalities. It is our responsibility
to help keep people safe. And when folks do not want to
follow the rules on their own, the police are there
to help ’em out. – Let’s shift to… We’ll talk some more about the
legislature down around here, but let’s switch to the
protest in Frayser some, what, a month ago now. And I’ll fumble through this. To clarify, the
warrant that was issued was about an incident,
an accusation, in DeSoto County. And the folks that were
there were US Marshals. So your folks didn’t get
involved until protests broke out and there
were quite a few Memphis police
officers up there. Do you look back on that, very hot, very difficult, very painful situation. I mean I think on all levels. And think that maybe… You guys go through a
kind of debrief afterwards and say, “Hey, what could
we have done differently?” “What could we
have done better?” And what was the outcome if
you do that sort of reflection? – So we review every
single critical incident. But if we go back to Frayser, we were not involved
in the shooting. We were called to the
scene after the shooting. Our job is to protect
the crime scene and hold the scene for TBI. But there was a… It was a thought that there was an individual
barricaded inside the home, so it made it very complicated. The officers performed
just remarkably well. They demonstrated
incredible restraint. And we have some of the bravest
men and women in the nation. And when you reflect
on these incidents, you always can do a better job. We spent time going to meet
our officers in roll call. I spent time with our
officers in training. So we could hear
their thoughts on it. And we immediately met
with our commanders and start talkin’ about what
could we have done better. But again, that’s somethin’
we do every critical incident. Unfortunately, we have
not seen that level of violence on an incident,
so we have made better preparations
to protect our officers and respond to that
type of situation. But, one thing that I do want
to impress upon everyone, we will not tolerate violence
against police officers. – So when you said,
that level of violence, you meant the rock
throwing and– – The rock throwing, yes. – The violence post the
shooting of Brandon Webber, the violence directed at
the police who were there? – Yeah, a lot of
folks don’t realize that the officers were out
there for two hours before the rock throwing began. And the rock throwing
incident was really relatively a short period of time
before our commanders thought that there was a need to
deploy a chemical agent. – And that that would be the,
what we think of as tear gas– – Tear gas. Once the chemical
agent was deployed, the situation was resolved. So once again, and
we talk about if… A lot of times people base
everything on outcomes. Well, there’s more into
it than just outcomes. But if you just
look at the outcome, the officers responded to a… An investigation that was
gonna be conducted by TBI. They maintained their level of professionalism
and restraint. We responded to unprovoked
violence by the crowd and we resolved it with less
lethal chemical munitions. And I again, I cannot continue to, or overlook the bravery that
our men and women demonstrated. And we should all be
very proud of them. – Let me bring Bill in. – Director, did
you know in advance that this Federal Task Force was going to be here
serving the warrant? Did they check in
with you before? – No, sir. And they don’t have
to check in with us. So you got to think about it. Any given day, there
are probably 10,000… It’s really over it, I think it’s 20,000 wanted
parties in Shelby County. And we have all types
of federal, state and local law
enforcement working to go and find those
wanted individuals. And I think that they’re fully
capable of doin’ their job. They’re the individuals we call when someone has
crossed state lines or they go after the
worst of the worst. And we try to communicate
on a regular basis. Obviously there are incidents where we’re gonna want to know, but they’re looking, they’re goin’ about their
daily works just like us. And we’re workin’ behind
the scenes to improve our level of communications. But we know that we’re not
gonna know every single thing, every single person
they go after. We’re busy. We’re tryin’ to keep
up with our own work, but we’ll continue to work with our federal
partners to communicate, to execute safe operations. But again, it’s really
about our citizens wanting a safer environment. And when there’s wanted
individuals that you know about, you should call the
police and let us know. Because that’s our job, to keep our community safe and work with law
enforcement to help you. – This has been described
as a task force that works out of the Gulf Coast,
or in that area. – Yes. – Is it unusual for a group
like that to come in here, and how much did they
know about the area that they were going into? – Yeah, I think you should talk to the US Marshals about that. It’s very usual for
them to be operating. I can guarantee you
they’re out looking for a fugitive right now. And probably within the
limits of Shelby County. And again, we depend on them. We have homicide suspects that
we think have fled the area, we contact them. When we’re concerned about
a very violent individuals that we are looking for, that have warrants, we contact them. So again, the US Marshals
is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, law enforcement service
in the United States. It’s a professional organization and we’ll continue
to work with them to bring individuals to justice. Unfortunately, this situation
resulted in a shooting. But if you think about all
the warrants they serve, all the violent
individuals they go after, they rarely have a
shooting incident. And so we should look
at their body of work, we should look at the body
of work of law enforcement, and realize that it definitely
is an unfortunate situation, but sometimes law enforcement is gonna have to
use deadly force. I encourage any individual
that comes in contact with law enforcement,
just comply. If you comply, there most likely will
not be an escalation of this incident. Everybody gets to go home, except for the wanted
party/individual that probably will
be goin’ to jail. But it’s a lot
easier for everyone if we comply with
law enforcement. If I ever come in contact
with the US Marshals, I am going to comply. – The… we’ll switch, you mentioned the homicide rate and that… A lot of attention for I
think the average citizen, certainly the media, on the murder rate. And I’m gonna use
those interchangeably and I know I shouldn’t, so I apologize in advance and you can help clarify
the difference between how you all look at a
murder versus a homicide. What can your office do to
bring that murder rate down? – So we’re gonna continue to… When you think about, first let me clarify
the difference. – Yeah, please. – Murder and homicide. A murder is a unlawful
killing of a individual. And a homicide, like a
justifiable homicide, could be a lawful killing where someone uses self-defense. Or a defense of a third party. As a community, we
have a responsibility to do something about homicides. We realize that law enforcement, you’re often graded on your
homicides or your murders, and your ability
to maintain those. So today, we’re
sitting at 101 murders compared to 93 last year. And we’re 9% above last year. But there’s a lot we can do. The issue of access
to guns is a problem that the state legislature
appears to be very reluctant, or totally unwilling to
do something about it. We have to think about
the barest priorities of hiring more police officers. When we had 2,500
police officers, we saw some of the
lowest homicide rates that we’ve seen in
my entire career. – Where are you… Just to interrupt a second. You all are at about
2,200, is that right? Or… ? – So, our goal this year is to end with 2,200
this fiscal year. So today we’re at 2,068. We have around 80-85
police recruits. We have a Police Service
Technician Graduation on Friday that’ll take
us up to 125 PSDs. So we’re doin’
good, but we have– – PSDs are the folks
people see maybe in the white cars maybe at a minor wreck at an intersection? – Yes. – Or something like that? – Yes, khaki uniforms. – And the low point, I’m sorry. Just so people don’t follow
this stuff so closely. The low point was what, 1,900, in terms of uniformed officers? – Yeah, so shortly after
the mayor took office, we had around 1,900
police officers. – Okay. – Which is grossly
inadequate to do the job. I mean I think we had
1.7 million calls, 911 calls, came into our
911 call center last year. And we need enough officers
to handle the call load. But let’s get back to
homicides and murders. – Yeah. – You asked a very
great question. So yesterday I was
meeting with a group. And I often meet with clergy. And so we can do a lot. And so in 2016, we asked the
University of Memphis to study our homicides. They came in and studied and they found there
were three major factors that just stood out that were statistically
significant where what would predict, or what could you
look at to predict if someone would be
a homicide suspect or a homicide victim. Three very simple things: One was, exposure to
domestic violence. And we have 10,000 incidents
of intimate partner violence in Memphis, every single year. We can do somethin’
about domestic violence. – Because that escalates
into a killing? And the exposure to
that level of violence and there’s a connection? – Well, there’s some domestic violence
related murders. But children are learning
to be violent at home. The other issue was, high school dropout. We can wrap around
young people in school because the young
men I visit in jail, and in juvenile court, a lot of them cannot
read and write. If you cannot read and write, you’re gonna have
a lot of problems tryin’ to get a job when they’re 13,000
open jobs in Memphis. If you’re illiterate, then you’re almost unemployable. So we have to really
focus on that. I applaud Dr. Ray for standing up and saying
that we have a problem– – The Superintendent– – The Shelby County School
Superintendent, Joris Ray. And that we have
to do a better job. We have to wrap
around our young men, make sure they’re educated. Make sure they’re ready
to enter the workforce, or it’s gonna be very tough. The third issue was, transient. We have a transient population in a lot of areas of town that move from place to place. They’re changing schools. It brings about a
lot of uncertainty. So the issue of homelessness– – Oh, okay, go ahead. Yeah. – The issue of
homelessness and poverty, hunger, these issues
have to be addressed. But guess what, let me finish. – Yeah, yeah. – These are not law
enforcement issues. – Well that’s about
what I was about to say. So there is… Those are societal issues, those are systemic issues and those are longterm
issues, right? – Yes. – And so is it maddening to you, I mean people will
look at you and say, “Yeah, but What did you do
to prevent that killing?” – Oh, that’s fine. So what I want to ensure
is that we as a department, we’re doin’ our job. We increased our homicide unit. We created a
violence-crime unit. We added to our
multi-agency gang unit. We’re standing up a
crime/gun/intelligence center. And we’re working with… We’re in our second year of the Public Safety
Partnership with the DOJ where our federal,
state and local partners are working together
to reduce crime. So let’s talk about
where we are today because this does
not get out much. So I was looking at
the daily crime today, we’re down almost 6% today
compared to last year. When I look at violent crime, violent crime is down 7%. Major property crime is
down significantly over 6%. So if you look at
the report card, where we’re hiring
more police officers, we are working with our
units behind the scenes to make sure that
they’re efficient. Working with the
Department of Justice. Working with the US
Attorney’s Office, the DA’s Office, and we are reducing crime when we have inadequate
staff to do our job. Our men and women are
doing some amazing work. And I just need the
rest of the community to do your part. It is not our responsibility
to raise your children. It is not our
responsibility to make sure they go to school and learn. We as a community, but we’re here to
partner with you, to help and make
sure that happens. – All right. Five
minutes left. Bill. – Do you think that
the count of murders, or the trend with murders, follows aggravated assaults? Or is it the other way around? Do the so-called
lesser offenses follow what you’re able to do
with the murder count? – Yeah, that’s a great question. So when you look at our murders and we look at the
percent of solved murders where the majority of the
individuals know each other. I was looking at the news where some individuals
that knew each other got into an argument
that ended in gunfire. We have a violence problem. And so some of this
is a morality issue. Individuals that know each other are choosing to pick up guns instead of trying to
resolve their issues. So making sure that we teach
individuals conflict resolution is critical. When you talk about the
aggravated assaults. Access to guns is a problem. And again, the state legislature has to do their part
because 1,273 guns were stolen from
cars in Memphis. When they extended
the house to the car, there are more access to guns. Individuals are more
prone to violence because of the access, so the state legislature
needs to do their part. We want responsible
gun ownership. But I think that the
state legislature chose to restrict what you
do with your cellphone, versus how you store your gun. That does not make sense to me. When we have a violence problem, we all have a responsibility. But, aggravated
assaults are down. Robberies are down. Carjackings are down. Murders are still a challenge. And I’m gonna ask that
our community step up, partner with the
police department, partner with our other
non-profit agencies, to help us keep kids in school. Tell the police when
you see acts of violence or criminal activity. And work with us to make
this community safe. – You talked about killings
that involve people who… The majority involve
people who know each other. – Yes. – When a random, truly
random, murder happens. And I think most recently
of Glen Cofield– – Yes. – Who was killed
on East Parkway, coming out of a fundraiser. And he was a big
community figure. – Yes.
– And these are awkward conversations
where it doesn’t… All lives matter, okay. But there was certainly a
portion of the community that responded to that. There was an outpouring of
anger and fear and sadness because of his connections
across the community and work he had done. Do you as the police
department feel that? Or do you look at
every killing as equal? Do you see what I’m
trying to get at? Does that prominence
of an individual, the connections of
an individual… And I’m not talkin’ wealth, I’m not trying to get into that. I just… Does that influence how
you approach something? And the randomness? Does that influence
how you approach it? – That’s a great question and that’s one question
that we get all the time. There’s a misconception that we treat one murder
differently than the other. – Right. – There’s a series
of senseless murders. And you said it best, all lives matter. And I remember Director
Armstrong saying that after the death of
Officer Sean Bolton. And he got some criticism because that was
a police officer. – Right. – But all lives do matter. And so we take every
single homicide seriously. Obviously when it’s in the news, you hear about it more. There are some that just
stand out in my mind: The murder of Laylah Washington. A precious baby, murdered. The murder of Myneisha Johnson, a young mother. The mother of a one-year-old that could not
graduate from BTW. Little Richard Jordan
that was murdered while driving down the street. And obviously the
murder of Glen Cofield is somethin’ that we are
going to work very hard. We’re workin’ on it
right now to solve. But here is somethin’
that we can do about it, ’cause somebody
knows who murdered all those individuals
I just mentioned. It took us over a year for someone to come forward and give us the break we needed to solve the murder
of Laylah Washington. I am confident, that someone’s
gonna come forward, or we’re gonna find the
evidence that we need to charge someone for the murder of Mr. Richard Jordan, Glen Cofield, and thankfully, Myneisha
Johnson’s murderer, Kwasi Corbin, was convicted and he will be held accountable
for the deeds that he did. But we need people, if they see somethin’, they need to say somethin’. Call CrimeStoppers. Call the Memphis
Police Department. You can email me directly
if you have a tip. But we all have a responsibility
to make our community safe. – We have not enough time to
go into so many other things. I have a whole
list of questions. I think we’ll end it there. I will share one
quick thing with you, back to a lighter note. On the interstate, I did have the chance to visit with one of your
officers the other day, on the side of the highway. We had a quick little interview; demonstrated how
a radar gun works. [laughter] Explained how speed limits work. Very professional, very, very… A great interaction
with this young man who pointed out that
my tags were expired. It was a really informative
little interview and visit that I had with him because I try to throw
myself into my work. But it was interesting. It was an interesting
moment to interact with a police
officer and it was, in that moment, an incredibly professional
and good person. So anyway, thank
you for being here. We’ll have you back. We’ll go through some
many, many other things. Thank you, Bill. And thank you for joining us. Join us again, next week. [dramatic orchestral music] [acoustic guitar chords]

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