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Institute for Public Service Reporting – Memphis

Criminal Justice and Policing

MPD Introduces Form Advising “Complainants” of Right to Pursue Criminal Charges Against Officers

MPD Introduces Form Advising Complainants of Right to Pursue

Citizens who file excessive force complaints with the Memphis Police Department are now being advised — on paper — of their right to pursue criminal charges against officers. 

A new “Complainant Rights Form” was recently handed to Chelsea Glass, 32, a supporter of Black Lives Matter who recently reported a patrolman to supervisors after he allegedly posted memes on Facebook that seemed to celebrate the shooting deaths of two activists in Wisconsin. 

After filing her intitial complaint, she said the officer sent her a direct message on Facebook. 

“The first message was, ‘Have we gone far enough, Sis?'” she says. 

Her attorney, Scott Kramer, said it constitutes a threat. 

“That’s the kind of threat you see from powerful entities,” he says. “They don’t specifically say, ‘hey, I’m going to come over to your house and beat you up.”

Kramer says police sent his client from one office to another when she tried to file criminal charges against the officer. 

“They spent a good deal of time trying to dissuade her,” Kramer says. 

The Complainant Rights Form is a new procedure advising citizens who make brutality complaints that they may also choose to file separate criminal charges. The form came after the Institute for Public Service Reporting found that MPD often investigates excessive force claims as internal policy violations and frequently do not refer them to prosecutors for further review. In an e-mail, a police spokesperson told us that investigators have long orally advised citizens of their right to seek criminal charges. The new form confirms acknowledgement of those rights. Activists like Glass doubt the measure is a meaningful reform. 

“There just seems to be a lot of resistance even to take your report,” she says. 

Written By

Marc Perrusquia is the director of the Institute for Public Service Reporting at the University of Memphis, where graduate students learn investigative and explanatory journalism skills working alongside professionals. He has won numerous state and national awards for government watchdog, social justice and political reporting.

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