MEMPHIS — A review of arrests of Memphis police officers shows that driving under the influence is the leading cause, but the number of arrests this year surpasses at least one other Tennessee police force.
The Commercial Appeal reports (http://bit.ly/ULS14a ) that 19 Memphis officers and two civilian employees have been arrested this year. The arrests, along with the fatal shooting of a 15-year-old by an off-duty officer, led Memphis Mayor A C Wharton to request an outside review of police department policies.
In comparison, Nashville’s police department has about 1,400 officers compared to Memphis’ 2,400 officers. So far this year, four Nashville police officers, two trainees and one civilian employee have been arrested so far this year, said Don Aaron, a spokesman for the Metro Nashville Police Department.
Memphis has recorded nearly five times as many officer arrests than Nashville.
While the records show that most arrests of officers and police staff have been for minor infractions, such as driving under the influence, Wharton on Sept. 25 expressed frustration with the string of arrests and embarrassing incidents involving Memphis police.
“With respect to discipline in those cases where it’s found that an officer particularly, but also any employee, has run afoul of the law or Memphis Police Department policy, that even minor infractions will not be tolerated,” Wharton said.
Three arrests of Memphis officers made by the FBI’s Tarnished Badge Task Force involved drugs, illegal use of law enforcement databases and transporting prostitutes.
Some of those arrested had a history of infractions prior to their arrest. Former officer Sean Fritz was arrested in January by the FBI for accessing crime information databases to obtain information that would help a friend and FBI source commit burglary.
Police records show Fritz was cited for insubordination and given a suspension for accessing police databases in 2009 to find the personal address and vehicle information of the then-police director Larry Godwin.
Sean McWhirter, the third Memphis officer arrested this year in the Tarnish Badge investigation, was given a suspension one year earlier for an authorized car pursuit and for kicking a man being handcuffed in the head area, according to police personnel files.
He was arrested on Sept. 16 on three prostitution related counts.
Another officer, Melvin Victor Robinson, said in an interview transcribed in a police Internal Affairs Bureau file that financial problems led him to arrange a drug deal with a man who had been providing information to the FBI.
He was arrested Jan. 26 and is awaiting sentencing on the federal charge in connection with the drug sting.