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
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
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
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.
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
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
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 MPDs and SCSOs Command Staffs 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.