Behind the Headlines – March 3, 2017

Behind the Headlines – March 3, 2017


– [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. – The Memphis City Council
on the surveillance list, police negotiations, and more, tonight on Behind the Headlines. (dramatic orchestral music) – I’m Eric Barnes, publisher
of the Memphis Daily News. Thanks for joining us. I’m joined tonight by
Berlin Boyd, Chairman of Memphis City Council,
thanks for being here again. – Thank you for having me. – [Eric] Worth Morgan, also
from the Memphis City Council, thanks for being here. – Thank you. – [Eric] Kemp Conrad,
Memphis City Council, thanks for being here. – Thanks for having us, Eric. – And Bill Dries,
senior reporter with the Memphis Daily News. And I’m gonna start,
there’s a lot going on with the surveillance
list, so I’m gonna ask Bill just to do a quick
update of what we, what happened this week,
where things stand, and then we’ll start,
get your reactions and move on from
there, so, Bill, what happened this week
with the surveillance list? – Well, it’s been
a busy, busy week. First of all, it’s a list
that if you’re on that list, and you come to City Hall,
you’re required to have a police escort to go wherever
you’re going in City Hall. Where we are now is that
Memphis Police director Michael Rallings continues
his review of the list and the 81 names on it. He has taken most of those
names off of the list. These are the people most of
whom were involved in protests in some way in the last year. So, what you’re left
with is a core list of a couple of dozen people
who were probably on the list at least since 2010 for various charges
that had come up, some of them are
former employees. They’re left on the list. What we have now are
two lawsuits related to how the later names
came to be on the list, and those two lawsuits
are in federal court, and they are alleging that
there was police surveillance involved in putting
those people on the list, and the lawsuits are based on an allegation that this violates a
1978 consent decree involving police
surveillance of protesters. The city has filed its
response as of Thursday. The city contends that the
lawsuit should be dismissed, because that consent decree
no longer remains in effect. – Alright, well, so I’ll
start with you, Mr. Chairman. Your thoughts on this list
as you learned about it, and what you wanna see done, and is the police department
going in the right direction, the mayor’s office going
in the right direction in terms of taking people
off this list, or not? – You know, I will say this,
Eric, one thing for sure, that this council
has no authority over any day-to-day
operations for City Hall. I said that during
our Council meeting. We didn’t know anything
about the list. We found out exactly the
same time the public, general public found
out about the list. The one thing that I will say,
I think that our attorneys, they have this process rolling. I will await to see
the outcome of it. I will say this, for the record,
just so that people know, I think you should not
be placed on a list until you have done an action that would cause
you to be on a list. So, if you threaten
somebody within City Hall, or you threaten an elected
official or an employee, then therefore, you
should be watched. You know, safety matters, and we’ve seen some
workplace violence, but we’ve also seen
people’s action based upon social media post,
things that they say about anti-government, anti-police, and I just think you have to
be cognitive in today’s time to make sure that
safety is first. You don’t get a do-over if
somebody comes in to City Hall with a gun and take lives. – Right, and Worth Morgan,
you chair the Committee, Public Safety
Committee, I believe. – I do.
– Yeah. So, in terms, again, I
mean with, you all don’t, the City Council doesn’t
have direct control, but you all have some
influence over what’s going on. You’re in City
hall all the time, and I think everyone, I mean, I’ve heard few if any
people say that somebody who’s got a record,
who’s maybe threatened, who’s some kind of active,
maybe mental illness or violence should be just roaming
around City Hall. But, people who, for
instance, were out protesting for a $15 minimum wage, that’s
generally the kinda thing we debate at this table, or
you all debate in Council. It’s not something that
involves police involvement. So, your reaction to
the police spending time, money, resources
monitoring people who are in more of a political
protest mode. – Yeah, and I think we have
to be real careful about the definition of
monitoring or surveillance, ’cause if somebody’s posting
something to social media, you know, for all
the public to see, or they’re doing
something in public in a protest on the street,
that’s not necessarily, I don’t know if I would
classify that as surveillance, and then we’d be getting
into some legal terms. I think there’s been more
attention paid to this list both internally,
definitely externally, ’cause nobody knew about it, but internally than ever before. And as you see as
they work through it the majority of the
names were removed, and I think we are moving
in the right direction. And, as we’ve said last week, and as Chairman Boyd just said, workplace safety is not
something that we take lightly. And we do receive, you
know, whether it be threats or suggestions of violence.
– Sure. – So, there’s not, I don’t
think anybody is disputing the need, or the
existence for a list. The question is what criteria
lands you on the list. – [Eric] Right. – And how the police are
spending their resources. And that’s something
that’s fair to debate, but you’d almost have to go
person by person by person, through all 81 names
to find that out, and that’s not something
that’s occurred yet. – Yeah, Kemp, your reaction. – Yeah, first of all
I trust the mayor and director Rallings,
and I think the Council to get this right, so, yeah these are all very
tough jobs, tough calls, it’s a fine line, you
know, a lot of these things that we have to do and the
decisions we have to make. I’ll say that I’m in the
commercial real estate business, and go to big cities, New
York, Chicago, Atlanta, and if you compare City
Hall kinda security to what you have to go through
to go to a big building in New York City,
it is night and day. It could be a lot
more stringent, so I think there is a very good, but I think City
Hall is very open, but we live in a
dangerous day and age, and there are crazy
people out there that you can spend a little
bit of time on social media and see what some
of the people say, and I’ll say, too, that
there’s a lotta crossover in this various group, you
know, the various kind of protest groups, it’s a
lotta the same people. And some of these people have,
they’ve been to Nashville, they’ve disrupted Nashville
legislative hearings, and so, it’s a very fine line, but what would be worse would be the media would be all over us
if something were to happen. They’d say, “Well why didn’t
you have stricter security?” So, but good questions
have been raised, collectively we’ll get
to the bottom of it, and I think that we’ll
make the best decision that we can do. – One thing this has brought up, and Director Rallings
mentioned it at, I think, at a press conference
or somewhere this week, that it brings up the
question of rules and policies in a world in which there
are more and more SkyCops going in, more and more
body cameras going in, District Attorney
Weirich was on here, I don’t know, six months
ago or something like that talking about the
difficulties of monitoring all this body camera
footage, and so on, so, I mean, is that,
I’ll go to you, – Yeah.
– You know, Public Safety Committee,
I mean, does the Council need to get more
involved in saying, look, it’s not just
these 81 people, some of whom are
coming off the list, it’s what are the
policies for the police, for all this video
that’s out there, all the body camera,
all the SkyCop, where, what is that line
between safety, which everyone wants, and no
one wants a terrible incident, and intrusiveness. – Yeah, and Councilman
Conrad’s absolutely right. It’s a very narrow lane
to have to operate in between, essentially
what some would accuse of violating people’s
rights and making sure that you know, on the retroactive end how’d you not see this coming? When it comes to body
cams, things like that, we do have policies and
procedures in place. And that’s an open
conversation we have with the state
government as well, and it’s, we are constantly,
I’ve been at conferences, last year we were
talking and looking at what other cities are doing. Now, we’ve been a bit of a
front-runner across the nation in terms of, you mention
a lot of different issues, but I’ll stick on body
cameras and that footage, and privacy concerns. So, a lot of this is
ground that hasn’t been, essentially, we’re the
front-runners on this. We are plowing the
road for others, and we’re being very
careful, and I think that was one of the reasons
we wanted to roll out the body cam program slowly, and make sure that if
there were hurdles, that we weren’t just
blowing through them, but we were being wise, and
I guess using our resources as best as possible and not
wasting everybody’s time. – Before I go back to
Bill, your thoughts, I mean again, with this, in
this world of sky cameras and SkyCops, and more and
more video surveillance by the police, do you think
there are enough rules and policies in place or
does the City Council need to get more involved in that? – I think we’re taking it as
a as-needed basis, I mean, it’s new technology, we’re
having more public people requesting for SkyCop cameras. So, I think it’s as-needed,
it’s just trial and error. And I think we’re
doing a good job so far figuring it out as we go. – Okay, Bill. – Realizing that much of our
discussion has dealt with the dividing line between
what the Council oversees and what the executive branch
and the mayor oversees. I’d like to ask you all
about the line between political surveillance and
public safety surveillance, because that seems to be
where this is gonna fall, or where much of the
discussion is going to be. Is that a distinction? Is that a legitimate
distinction, do you think? – I definitely believe that
it is, Bill, simply because, as my colleague, Councilman
Morgan, just mentioned, you don’t know half the
threats, half the letters, half the notes, half the things
we may get in our mailbox with no return address. It’s a very dangerous
position to be in. People can say you don’t vote
the way I want you to vote, and now they hate you,
they send you hate mail. So, I definitely believe
it’s a fine line. You know, those protestors
took it to a different level by going to the mayor’s
home, personal space, and to perform a die-in. That’s what City Hall is for. If you have an issue
with your mayor, you have an issue
with the Council, take it to City Hall and
express your concerns. But, when you go
to someone home, you have taken it
to another level. You’re not only posing
a threat to the mayor, you’re posing a
threat to his family. – Kemp, do you think there’s
a distinction to be made here between political surveillance
and watching people for the purposes
of public safety? – Yeah, I mean, I think
there’s a distinction. The interesting thing
now is on social media, I mean, you know, there’s
so much out there, and, you know, again, if,
I think a lot of the people that are protesting,
that are the issue, they’re a lot of the same
people in the same groups, and, but I do think
there’s a distinction that has to be made. – [Bill] And Worth,
your view on that. – Yeah, no, I mean, this is
almost a Constitutional question and my first, you know, so, my first call would be
to the lawyers, and say, “Alright, where is the line?” We don’t wanna do
anything as a government, as a legislative body, we don’t
wanna do anything illegal, but we do wanna make sure
we’re doing everything that’s practical and
wise to protect ourselves and our employees. – Yeah, we talk about
police, and we’ll move, it’s contract time
with the police, and there, a couple
things happened this week. Bill, there’s a, maybe
I’ll get you to tell us where we are in the negotiations with the union contract
and this grant that came from the crime commission. So, why don’t you give
us a little update. – If I said just one thing–
– Yeah, sure. – You know, we had
an issue at Valero where people cemented
themselves into barrels. I mean, that, who knows what
could’ve been in those barrels. – [Eric] Right, and some of
them ended up on this list. – And some of the people
there are the same ones that we see at
City Hall that are, that time after time,
whether its the, this group or that group, again, it’s a lot
of the same people. It costs the taxpayers millions
of millions of dollars. It’s very dangerous that
things could’ve happened, and so, and I would imagine
some of the ones that were looking in the mayor’s house,
in their window at 5:00 a.m. So, this is serious
stuff, and those are the, I think the ones that
really have to be watched, and you have to draw a
distinction between that, totally going over the line, blocking an oil refinery where
we don’t know if there’s, what’s in the barrels, and
people that are just protesting, which obviously people
should have the right to do. So, and I think Memphians
and people are smart enough to know the difference between
going in the mayor’s yard in the morning, looking
in on his family. – But, is part of it then,
we’ll stay on this for a second. Is part of it then, not
so much that these, that, okay, let’s give you
that for a second, but that the list was secret, and it wasn’t clear that
people knew they were on it, and the kind of, the lack
of a sort of disclosure and transparency about the list, and the unclear criteria. Is that part of
what I think people, what I’ve heard
people respond to? – Yeah, that’s valid. – [Eric] That weren’t
policies in place. There weren’t
procedures in place. That that,
– Right. – ‘Cause it was
a mysterious list that, you know, am I on the,
I mean who’s on the list, are there other lists?
– Right. – That kind of thing.
– Right. – That was poorly handled.
– I mean– – And how did being on the
list actually affect you is another question, because
if people are on a list, and they didn’t
even know about it, you could have some
questions about the actual effect of it. – Right, and then to clarify,
I mean, some of the people who were on the list didn’t
do some of these things, I mean, so it was a very
ad hoc, it was a very, ad hoc is the nice
way to put it. – Yes.
– Right – I mean, after the
December die-in on the lawn, the mayor went to the
police, and the police said, yeah, we think you should sign
an authorization of agency, which is basically a
no trespassing list, but then he left the names
that were to be on the list to the police, and
it wound up being I think something like 30 people when the protest was a
dozen people at the most. And so, he didn’t know how
the names got on the list for his property, and then he
didn’t know that the police had automatically taken
those lists and had said okay, they’re also on the
City Hall list as well. – Let’s move to,
still with police, so, it is union contract
negotiation time, and there was a grant
from the Crime Commission to the city for
retention bonuses. Give us a quick update
on where we are. We’ll get reactions from this. – Tuesday, the formal
contract negotiations started. This was the day after the
Memphis Shelby Crime Commission announced a 6.1
million dollar grant to the city of Memphis, and Mayor Strickland announced
that that money would be used over a four-year period
for retention bonuses for Memphis police officers
as part of the effort to have a net gain in the
number of police officers and a force of
approximately 2300 officers. – Conrad, in the past
you’ve butted heads some with the union, I
remember some years ago, when a lot of the cuts were
on, you were on the show with Mike Williams, head
of the police union. Your take right now on the
police union’s reaction to, they don’t like that
these retention bonuses, to them, they’re
outside the purview, or outside the contract, the billboards are up again, in terms of talking about
Memphis not being a safe city. Your reaction to the way the
union is reacting right now. – Well, I just think it’s
unfortunate that once again the city has come up with a way
to pay police officers more, and for some reason, the
leadership of the police union doesn’t like that. It reminds me of a couple
years ago on the Council, when we wanted to give the
police officers a raise six months earlier
than was discussed, and the police union
was against that, so I don’t know how a
police officer would not, would wanna wait six
months to get a raise, or would not want this money and these raises and
these retention bonuses that people have worked
really hard to put together. That doesn’t make sense to me, and I think at the
end of the day, we’re trying to do what’s
right for the city, and what’s right
for law enforcement, and I think all you have to
do is look at the billboards and see what the
police union is doing. And that’s not in
Memphians’ best interest. It’s not in the police
officers’ best interest. It’s really about them,
and what we’re trying to do is make Memphis a great
city, make it safe. And how police union leadership
would be against this, it’s beyond me. – Berlin Boyd, this’ll
be your first round, obviously you just became
Chairman some months ago. Your thoughts on how
this negotiation’s going, how the union is reacting. – You know, I think the way
the union is reacting right now is very immature, and I say that, you know,
because of the reason if you look at
across the country, the way things are going, it’s tough to recruit
police officers. We’re just trying to
find innovative ways to offer more money,
incentivize them. I will say that
they keep saying, well bring the benefits
back, bring the pension back, well, I doubt if
that ever happens. However, I will say, if you
look at Dallas, Texas right now, they’re facing a possible
filing bankruptcy, because of their pension system,
it’s a thing of the past. I just think it’s something
that our police association should try to work well
with the administration, because we really have their
best interests at heart. – We have police officers
coming back from Dallas now, and let’s not forget
that recently the
police union actually helped set up recruiting fairs
for other cities to come in. What would happen if at
FedEx, an employee at FedEx had a recruiting fair for
UPS to come in and hire away, it’s unbelievable, so I’m
hopeful that this administration will take action on
this kind of behavior that’s counter-productive to the health of
the city of Memphis. – I think the three of
us are in agreement that recent actions of the
police association have been both unproductive and
unprofessional, and this remember this is
a grant, I mean, this is a gift to the city, and it totals about
1.6 million a year, and what they’re asking for,
just is a completely different scale in terms of size
that would cost between 40 and 55 million dollars, verse
this grant, which is 1.6, and to say anything
that’s beneficial to the police officers
that’s not exactly what they’re asking for
is a slap in the face is stunning. – Yeah. Bill, go ahead, and
Bill, do you know, I’m gonna put you on the spot,
where does that money come, the Crime Commission,
I didn’t know they had a funding ability. I didn’t know they had funds
behind them in that way. – The money, according to the
crime commission comes from private donors.
– Okay. – And that leads
me to my question. Do you think that private
donors putting up money for a specific purpose, in this
case for retention bonuses, does that usurp the council’s
authority in any way in your opinion? – In which way?
Usurp our authority? – I think it’s all subject
to the budget, I mean, I think ultimately it’s
gonna come to the Council, and we’re gonna
have to approve it. We have to accept the grant
fund, so no, it doesn’t– – On Tuesday’s agenda,
we have to accept that it’s in Worth’s committee, but I don’t think it
circumvents, I think it helps. I think it’s the
citizens’ responsibility as well as taxpayers’
responsibility to find any ways that they can help
assist us in funding. – Yeah, this is a great
example of what a generous city Memphis is, so I wanna
publicly thank the people, the individuals, the
companies that stepped up and gave this money, you know, thank you for this, it’s
gonna make Memphis safer, so, look at the Harahan
Bridge, look at, you know, just down the street here
at Shelby Farms, I mean, there’s so many many good
things going on in Memphis, and a lot of people working
hard, none of us are perfect at what we do, we
all have tough jobs, we’re making great strides
on a lotta different fronts, unemployments, jobs coming
back in, parkland, green space, and then you get people
throwing up these billboards, and I hope that really
illustrates the contrast between people of good will that are trying to
move the city forward, and people that are
just trying to serve their own selfish interest, and really just trying to
pull Memphis backwards. – We’ll move on, we have
about eight minutes left here, seven minutes left,
to de-annexation was a huge issue about
this time last year, when the legislature
was trying to push to wholesale kind of de-annexation,
the city of Memphis, chamber, others got together, business community got
together and fought it, talking about a loss of huge amounts of
population and revenue. The mayor rolled out a
plan a week or two ago that de-annexes a number of
areas, and it seems like, and tell me if I’m wrong, you guys would hear
more than I would, that the issue, that it’s
been very well-received, because the issue has
kind of died down. Your thoughts on
the mayor’s plan, and have you heard
from constituents, I don’t think it’s
in your district, but have you heard from residents?
– I had one little area. – One little area, okay, have
you heard from residents, from citizens saying this is
terrible, this is great, what? – You know, the constituents
which I represent, in the inner city, they
think it’s a bad idea. It’s 8.5 million
dollars worth of revenue potential loss to us. The thing that I have issues
with on the consent decrees of those areas we annex, we did
it within our legal purview, and we did everything legally. My biggest issue is I don’t
mind the annexing areas if we can get a return on our
overall capital investment that we put in those areas. If we cannot recoup
our capital investment, I don’t think the
inner city can afford to just hand over gifts
to these annex areas, and to hear some of the
people out there say, well, we didn’t
know, we didn’t know, well, if you look at
your consent decree, half of them knew
they were buying homes in annex reserve areas. So, until we can show
how we’re going to recoup our investment, I’m on the
fence as, I can’t support it. – ‘Cause that, the mayor’s
proposal will have to go through City Council, right?
– It does, yeah. – It has to be voted on by
you all to let those areas go. That does not take an
act of the legislature, is that correct?
– Correct. – But, to get the money
back would, right? There’s no mechanism
in state law right now to recoup that money, but
that potentially could be done up in Nashville, is that right? – Yeah, so this is
an evolving issue, and in a lotta ways
we’re entirely relying on what happens in Nashville,
what they do could change the landscape in
Memphis very quickly. We were all up in, I
think, Nashville last year. You were there, too. – [Eric] I was there.
I’m there often. – Yeah, lobbying on the issue, and there’s a smart way, and an honest, good
conversation to have about what is the
right size of Memphis, and trying to do it from
a practical point of view that doesn’t just shift
tax dollars to the county, you know, from the county, or if we de-annex in
a poor way, I think, which could’ve
happened last year if the state had
gotten their way, we could’ve seen taxes
going up in the city and in the county. And that just, that
didn’t make sense. That’s a foolish way to govern, and I think there’s a fair,
good discussion to have on this, and it’s still evolving, but I don’t buy
into the argument that the city was in
the wrong or immoral about how we went about
annexation the first time. I don’t buy that argument. – [Kemp] We followed state law. – Yeah.
– Right, right. – But a lot of people have
talked about people be– – And it went through
the court system. – Right, and advocates for the,
I mean, this is one of the, if not the physically largest
cities in the country. It grew too much a
lot of people say, so that some amount of
appropriate right-sizing is what people
have talked about, could make sense.
– Right. – With just a few
minutes left, Bill. – So, Berlin, I think
the area in your district is one where actually
three people live there. – [Berlin] And deer. – And deer, yeah (laughter), it’s a pretty
heavily wooded area, and it includes–
– Bow-hunter. – And it includes the
police academy as well. – [Berlin] Right,
don’t tell Reid that. Don’t tell Hedge that.
(laughter) So, regardless of how many
people live there, though, is that an area
where we invested, like in sewers and
things like that? – You know, the infrastructure
there is really minuscule. I don’t mind letting
that area go. Let Shelby County take care
of the deer, and the trees, and the water, I mean,
it’s a very small area in which we put
infrastructure in, so those areas like out
in Eads, for example. – And Southwest Memphis, too.
– You know, it’s about 15, 16 homes, our trustee
lives out there. Let the county, they
can have those 15 homes, but I think are some
practical areas. You know, the one
thing that I will say, Memphis did a poor job
with trying to annex itself out of debt, so it didn’t work. So, it gave the taxpayers
more responsibility. However, like my
colleague just said, we did it within our legal,
we did it within the law. We didn’t break any laws
by annexing these areas, so why should we be
forced by the state, our great friends,
to give it up? – Kemp, so should we
give up Southwind, should we give up South Cordova, which actually, the Cordova
area is a little bigger than the recently annexed area and includes some areas of
Cordova that the city annexed maybe 30 years ago. – I still have an
open mind on it. I agree with my friend
Chairman Boyd here, I mean, the city can’t come
out of this with a net loss. I mean, it can’t be worse
for the city of Memphis. That would be a bit of
a dereliction of duty on our part, I think, so, I still have an
open mind about it. I do think that over
time the city grew too much too fast. It’s expensive to live or
services, we need more density, but I, we, the city has
to at least come out ahead or even on the deal, and I think based on
how it is right now I don’t think that we do, so– – Yeah, a minute left, and
not near enough time for this, but I’ll go to the Chairman on one last thing.
– Well, I– – Wait, I wanna go, we just
have a minute left here, Beale Street, I’m cutting
off Kemp Conrad, I apologize, Beale Street, does the–
– Happens all the time, Eric. – Yeah, exactly, does
the council need to
get more involved in what’s going on
at Beale Street? – I think there are
litigations going on right now. We’ll say that we
have put contingencies for the council’s budget,
legal contingencies. So, we’re just going to sit
back, listen to the arguments, it’s keep coming back before the economic
development committee. I think it’s interesting. It’s a lot do deal with, but I think for the most part
we’ll let the lawyers decide. – Alright, and I’ll
go back to Kemp. I’ll give him his
last sentence here. – Well, no, I just, I
think it’s interesting. People who bought houses knew
where they were buying houses in the city of Memphis.
– Oh, back to de-annexation. – And, I bet all the people
that don’t wanna be in Memphis, but I bet they love to
go to the Grizzly games. I bet they love to go downtown. I bet the love, yeah,
and so, it’s, you know, It just strikes me as
a little interesting. People don’t want
to be in Memphis, but they want to realize
all the benefits of Memphis. They’re flying out
of our airports. – We give you the
last word today. Thank you all for being here.
– Thank you. – Thank you for joining us. Join us again next week. Goodnight. (dramatic orchestral music) (guitar chords)

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