A call for action: State leaders, local authorities mull decision to bring National Guard to Memphis

Published: Nov. 16, 2023 at 9:48 PM EST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A city under siege, that’s how one elected official is describing the city of Memphis.

State Senator Brent Taylor says his constituents are calling for the National Guard to come to Memphis following a spike in violent crime.

Taylor sent a letter to Governor Bill Lee Wednesday asking for state resources to help.

From Thieves ransacking multiple stores to the untimely murder of a St. Jude Employee in downtown Memphis, Taylor says the dramatic uptick in crime in Memphis this past weekend motivated him to send a letter to the governor.

Taylor said his constituents are paralyzed by fear and his constituents are calling for the National Guard to help restore order.

Former Memphis School board member and Pastor Kenneth Whalum has been an early advocate for the National Guard coming to the Bluff City.

“We’re already in a police state except that it’s the criminals policing the streets. We are in a state of emergency. I’ve been saying it for a long, long time,” said Whalum.

Whalum says he remembers when the National Guard patrolled the streets following the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and thinks citizens seeing additional support would help ease some people’s fears.

Preliminary TBI data shows a 42% increase in murders in Memphis, Whalum says we are long overdue for asking for help.

“It might be too late. It might be too late and so I think it’s too [ late to try and] mitigate the negative effects,” said Whalum.

Democratic Tennessee Senate Minority leader Raumesh Akbari says she doesn’t think bringing in the National Guard is the solution.

She says there should be a focus on crime prevention and gun legislation.

“We have not addressed gun laws in our state, but we have tried incarcerating people longer, we’ve tried to get more police on the street, but have we actually passed legislation to actually make sure guns are in the wrong folks’ hands? No,” said Akbari.

Memphis Police Chief CJ Davis echoed Akbari’s concerns, adding repeat offenders are the real problem.

“I don’t care if we had the entire United States Army in the City of Memphis if we continue to have the same individuals committing crimes, arresting our way out of this is not possible,” said Davis.

Taylor said in the letter that the National Guard is probably not the best suggestion since the guard is best used for natural disasters and other emergencies—not arresting criminals.

However, Taylor is requesting unannounced, periodic Tennessee Highway Patrol surges on Memphis Highways.

He is also requesting the creation of a “monitoring team” to disclose to the public the number of crimes committed, arrests, prosecutions, and convictions.

We reached out to Governor Bill Lee’s Office for comment but have not heard back.

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