Ten former Memphis Police Department officers face decertification hearings today in Nashville as state officials work to clear a backlog of unresolved misconduct allegations stretching back to 2019.
That backlog includes three former MPD officers who had been investigated for alleged sexual misconduct, a fourth officer convicted of possessing child pornography and another convicted in a fatal hit-and-run accident.
Also on the list is former MPD Lt. Eric Kelly, a homicide detective who retired in 2019 amid an internal investigation into a sexual relationship he admitted having with a murder suspect.
The statewide backlog involving 38 unresolved decertification requests came to light earlier this fall as the Institute for Public Service Reporting and Action News 5 investigated the checkered career of former MPD patrolman Colin Berryhill.
Internal investigators had accused Berryhill in 2020 of abusing citizens with his Taser, including one motorist who was electroshocked while restrained in handcuffs. But the day before Berryhill’s October 2020 disciplinary hearing, he quit. As the news organizations reported, he took a new job days later in Mississippi as a patrolman for the Southaven Police Department, where he still was working this fall.
MPD waited 21 months after Berryhill’s resignation to ask the Tennessee Peace Officer Standards & Training (POST) Commission to decertify him. The request was filed on grounds that Berryhill had quit before his misconduct charges could be resolved – effectively allowing him to escape the allegations as he continued doing police work in a new jurisdiction.
Then POST incurred delays of its own: Despite MPD’s July 2022 decertification request, a hearing wasn’t scheduled until after the news organizations inquired earlier this fall about Berryhill’s status.
The request to decertify Berryhill had been placed on Thursday’s agenda, but he reportedly requested a delay. He now faces a hearing in the new year.
POST spokesman Kevin Walters released a list in October of 38 decertification requests stretching back as far as 2019 that remained unresolved while POST staff attempted to locate officers to serve notifications needed to schedule hearings. In some cases, officers share blame for the delays.
For example, Berryhill failed to update his mailing address as required by state law, Walters said.
Berryhill, 35, could not be reached despite multiple efforts to email and text him.
MPD did not respond to two emails seeking comment.
One police reform advocate said the delays in holding hearings for the officers is troubling, as is the level of criminal activity that several of the former MPD officers appear to have engaged in.
“The community members are expecting more. They’re expecting that the (police) engaging them to uphold the law are not facing criminal liability themselves, that they are not criminals themselves,’’ said Hans Menos, vice president of the triage response team at the Center for Policing Equity, a Denver-based nonprofit policing think tank.
“And that’s a challenge. I think that’s a challenge for policing to really reconcile.’’
Though Berryhill found new police work in Mississippi, the news organizations did not find that any of the other former MPD officers awaiting hearings were working again as police officers.
Former MPD officers facing decertification at POST’s 1 p.m. meeting today include:
- Travis D. Pride, 34, who pleaded guilty in October to aggravated statutory rape. He was sentenced to six years probation. He resigned in May 2021 amid an internal investigation into his off-the-job behavior. According to POST records, Pride “was listed as a suspect of a forcible rape involving a 17-year-old victim’’ in connection with an incident in which he was moonlighting as a Lyft driver. Originally charged with rape and kidnapping, he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of aggravated statutory rape.
- Vernon Sumner, 36, who pleaded guilty in March in federal court in Memphis to two counts of receiving and possessing child pornography and was sentenced to 80 months in prison. Court papers allege that authorities found thousands of videos and images on Sumner’s home computer involving “child sex abuse.” A 12-year MPD veteran, Sumner resigned in April 2022 amid an internal investigation launched after the FBI executed a search warrant at his home.
- Alexis D. Granger, 27, pleaded guilty in 2022 to drunken driving in connection with an August 2021 traffic stop. According to POST records, Granger had been pulled over by a state trooper for doing 75 mph in a 55 mph zone when “sped off while the Trooper was’’ speaking to her through the driver-side window. “When the Trooper located your vehicle the second time, you were argumentative and actively resisted detainment,’’ a report said. She resigned before a disciplinary hearing could be held.
- Demetrius A. Walker, 25, who was accused by internal investigators in 2020 of violating MPD’s personal conduct and truthfulness policies in connection with an inappropriate relationship he allegedly engaged in with a juvenile. According to POST records, Walker was listed as a suspect in a police statutory rape report. “You met a juvenile on the social media app, Grindr,’’ an internal statement of charges against Walker says. “…You admitted to having a sexual relationship with the juvenile.’’ A report says the matter was sent to the District Attorney for review, but the outcome of that review was unavailable Thursday. Records reviewed by the news organizations revealed no indication that Walker was ever charged with any crimes. A probationary employee with less than a year on the force, Walker resigned before a disciplinary hearing was held.
- Michael Tippett, 47, who was under investigation for a 2018 incident in which he allegedly beat a handcuffed detainee in the street outside The Peabody hotel. According to an internal report, Tippett began hitting the man after he spit on him. Body camera footage and a second video show Tippett punching the man in the face area about 18 times. An 11-year MPD veteran, Tippett resigned in July 2019, hours before his final disciplinary hearing was to be held.
- Kelly, 52, who retired to a $43,000-a-year pension in November 2019 before a disciplinary hearing could be held into allegations that he’d had an inappropriate relationship with a woman he had investigated in connection with a homicide. Kelly later was indicted on three counts of official misconduct, but the charges were dismissed under a plea deal that granted the 26-year MPD veteran diversion and wiped his record clean.
The list of 38 unresolved decertification requests also includes Delvon Green, 39, who resigned in August 2022 amid an investigation into alleged inappropriate sexual conduct, and Matthew Lee Henderson, 30, who resigned in February 2020 amid an investigation into the sale and distribution of illegal steroids. In a separate matter, Henderson pleaded guilty last year to vehicular homicide in connection with a fatal hit-and-run accident in 2018. The accident happened when Henderson was still working at MPD, but while he was off duty.
Neither Green nor Henderson are on today’s POST agenda. The status of decertification requests filed against them was uncertain Thursday.
Overall, 14 former MPD officers are on the list of 38 decertification requests.
POST spokesman Walters said earlier this fall that the agency began streamlining procedures last year in order to speed up the decertification process. That included adding more staff, he said.