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Memphis Police Department
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Project Safe Neighborhoods
Learn about the joint initiative among the U.S. Attorney's Office,  the Shelby County District Attorney's Office, ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms), and local law enforcement designed to reduce violent crimes through aggressive prosecution of firearms offenders. 

PSN Most Wanted

PSN



Purpose of the PSN Unit 

The Memphis Police Department Project Safe Neighborhoods GUN (Governments United for Non-Violence) Unit, commonly referred to as the PSN Unit, was started on February 11, 2002.  Initially, three (3) investigators and a supervisor were detailed from other workstations to the program at the request of Terry Harris, United States Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, and William Gibbons, Shelby County District Attorney.

On September 7, 2002, Deputy Director James Bolden moved the PSN Unit under Executive Administration. At this time, the temporary assignments were made permanent with the addition of two (2) more investigators for a total of six MPD personnel.

On February 22, 2003, Sheriff Mark Luttrell assigned an investigator from the Shelby County Sheriffs Office.

The PSN Unit reviews every arrest where a firearm is seized with the objective of identifying any trigger for federal jurisdiction.   These triggers include a defendant who: has a prior felony conviction; is currently under felony indictment or protective order, has a prior domestic assault conviction, is a drug addict, or used the firearm in a federal crime of violence or drug offense.  In addition the unit screens cases for cases involving stolen firearms, prohibited weapons such as short-barreled shotguns/rifles, silencers, machine guns, and firearms with obliterated serial numbers.  A packet is prepared containing an extensive amount of background information on each case.

The Unit presents these packets to representatives of the United States Attorney's Office and the Shelby County District Attorney's Office at a weekly intake meeting. During this meeting, a decision is made whether or not to accept each case into the PSN initiative. If accepted, a case is then directed either to federal court for prosecution, or an “above range” plea offer is made in state court. However, if the person refuses to accept the state court offer, the case is dismissed in state court and forwarded to federal court for prosecution.

The PSN Unit currently reviews firearm arrests made in Memphis, Bartlett, Millington, Germantown, Collierville, as well as the unincorporated areas of Shelby County, including arrests made by the police departments of the aforementioned municipalities, the Shelby County Sheriff's Office, and the Tennessee Highway Patrol. The unit often assists other departments throughout the Western District of Tennessee on an as needed basis and at the request of the USAO.

The PSN Unit also investigates persons buying and selling firearms to/from convicted felons. The unit also engages in proactive investigations of convicted felons suspected of possessing firearms. We work very closely with the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) in attempting to identify firearm suppliers that are acting illegally. We actively work informants in attempt to reach our goal of reducing illegal firearms possession and firearms related violence on the streets of Shelby County, Tennessee.

The PSN Unit is currently working with the ATF and TBI in an effort to utilize the NIBIN system for ballistics and firearms casing comparisons and identification. Four of the unit's investigators have attended ATF training in Largo, Florida and have recently been certified as ballistic entry technicians, which allows them to enter bullets and casings into the NIBIN system.

The PSN Unit serves all federal arrest warrants returned on cases presented at the weekly intake meetings even though this is actually the responsibility of ATF. Due to the heavy increase in federal firearms cases as a result of this initiative, ATF was unable to timely serve the arrest warrant and investigate new cases as well. The PSN unit took on this responsibility as the prompt removal of the offender from our community reduces criminal activity.

The PSN Unit often acts as a support unit to the other investigative units of the Memphis Police Department and Shelby County Sheriffs Office. We work closely with other bureaus that are investigating serial or systematic firearm related crimes. Units that we commonly assist are MPD's Vice/Narcotics, Metro Gang Unit, Homicide, Robbery, Sex Crimes, General Assignment, Burglary, and the SCSO General Assignment Squad and Metro Narcotics Unit.

This is merely an overview of the areas of crime reduction in which the PSN Unit is involved.   This is not a short-term initiative, nor do we refer to PSN as a program.  Rather the Memphis Police Department has changed the manner and means by which firearms related offenses are investigated and tracked.  A wealth of information has been developed regarding the patterns of illegal firearms possession and use.  The PSN Unit has become a repository of information on firearms offenses and firearms offenders that is utilized by law enforcement throughout the county to investigate and clear a wide variety of cases.

Currently, the Memphis Police Department and the Shelby County Sheriff's Office are the only agencies in Shelby County that have supplied full time investigators to this program. As I have stated, it was at the direct solicitation of the USA and SCDA.

Authority

The PSN Unit works under the direct authority of the Director of the Memphis Police Department and the Sheriff of Shelby County at the solicitation of the United States Attorney of the Western District of Tennessee and the Shelby County Attorney General. Other close Law Enforcement partners are ATF and the United States Marshall's Office (USMO).

There is no formal MOU between the above mentioned agencies. Each agency is considered an equal partner of the Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative. One of the most important factors of the PSN initiative is that manpower resources dedicated to this partnership from each and every agency and are supervised directly by a representative from that agency. This allows problems and concerns of all agencies to be addressed.  

Established Accountability

Lt. M. J. Clark currently supervises the Memphis Police Department's PSN GUN Unit. The Memphis Police department has dedicated five full-time Sergeant/Investigators, Sgt. Roger Nelson, Sgt. Jeff Dickerson, Sgt. Robin Hulley, Sgt. Joe Griffin, and Sgt. Paul Wright. The Shelby County Sheriff's Office has dedicated one detective, Detective Larry Lindsey.

The PSN Chain of Command flows from Lt. Clark upward through Inspector Curtis Williams, Deputy Chief Al Gray, and Deputy Director Ray Schwill to Director James Bolden.

Each investigator's case preparation is critiqued at the weekly intake meeting. The investigators submit each and every case that has a federal trigger by summarizing the case and presenting a complete copy of the investigative file to the USAO, the SCDA's Office, and to ATF. The direction of the case is determined in this meeting with all agencies expressing their opinions and concerns.

Each case that does not have a federal trigger is identified and turned over to the SCDA's Office so that the General Sessions Courts of Shelby County can proceed in a timely fashion.

Evaluating our Results and Highlights of our Achievements

One of the most positive signs thus far for the PSN initiative is not only MPD’s and SCSO’s Command Staff’s support and staffing of the unit, but also the incredible enthusiasm shown by the patrol officers and investigators of both departments. The PSN initiative is a grass roots initiative that has succeeded thus far, and will continue to succeed, only because of efforts of the rank and file officers of local departments working in partnership with the USAO, the SCDA's Office, ATF, and USMO.

In March of 2003, representatives from all agency partners attended a National Conference in Philadelphia, PA sponsored by the Department of Justice. The Memphis Police Department's PSN Unit was nominated by the USAO of the Western District of Tennessee for two awards. One nomination was for "Outstanding PSN Unit Contribution to a Gun Crime Reduction Task Force" and the second was for   "Outstanding Individual Contribution to a Gun Crime Reduction Task Force". Both are National Awards with nominations from all 92 Districts of the USAO. The MPD won the individual contribution award.  In addition, the WDTN won an award for the PSN training programs.  The PSN unit has been an active part of the PSN training efforts throughout the city.

At this conference, the Deputy United States Attorney General singled out our district as having had the largest increase, over 400% in a one year period, in federal firearms cases. Several different representatives of the Department of Justice singled out the WDTN PSN initiative during this conference. Three of the twelve "break out sessions" were taught by representatives of different agency partners in our local PSN initiative in an effort to teach other districts about our program.

The PSN GUN Unit partnered with ATF in August 2002 in a long-term undercover operation at two of our local gun shows targeting both federally licensed firearms dealers and private sellers that were illegally supplying firearms to convicted felons. Numerous federal indictments were returned in June 2003 regarding cases made from this operation, coupled with federal search warrants were the probable cause was established during this operation named "Risky Business". Over 600 firearms where seized as a result of "Risky Business".

Several Bureaus such as Homicide, Robbery, Sex Crimes, General Assignment, Burglary, and Vice/Narcotics have credited the PSN Unit with either solving or assisting in the identification and prosecution of persons responsible for crimes being investigated in the respective bureaus. Several of the cases have lead to positive press regarding the PSN initiative, which has lead to an outpour of support from our community. A recent poll of the citizens of Shelby County conducted by the University of Memphis concluded that nearly 50% of all citizens polled were familiar with the PSN initiative. It is considered very unusual for this percentage of citizens to have a working knowledge of a law enforcement initiative.


 
 
 

 


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