- Associated Press - Thursday, September 24, 2015
Hundreds of Memphis police getting body cameras

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - The Memphis Police Department has begun assigning newly received body cameras to officers, with a goal of giving the equipment to more than 2,000 officers by the end of the year, Police Director Toney Armstrong said Wednesday.

Armstrong told reporters at a news conference that the department has received 500 body cameras from its vendor, Taser. About 50 officers per day are being trained on the equipment, which will provide more transparency to police operations, Armstrong said.

“Body cameras have been credited with changing the way officers and public interact with one another,” Armstrong said. “I also believe that the introduction of body cameras to this department has the potential to improve community relations, lower the number of citizens’ complaints, defend officers against false accusations and provide greater agency accountability.”

Armstrong says the 500 cameras should be handed out by early October, with more than 2,000 deployed by the end of the year. The department currently has roughly 2,150 officers. Mike Shore, a Taser vice president, said it is the most aggressive rollout of its Axon Flex body cameras among the law enforcement agencies it serves.

The department also expects to equip about 400 police vehicles with in-car video by January. The car and body cameras will be automatically triggered by actions such as the activation of blue lights on police cars, the removal of the patrol rifle or shotgun from its holding place, vehicle speed in excess of 75 mph, and vehicle impact, police said. The system also can be activated manually.

Calls for body cameras and in-car video increased after the fatal shooting of a 19-year-old man by an officer and the shooting death of a Memphis police officer earlier this year.


‘Dead Man Walking’ nun urges students to fight death penalty

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Sister Helen Prejean could have been at the White House on Wednesday, welcoming the pope. Instead the Roman Catholic nun famous for writing “Dead Man Walking” chose to spend her day speaking to a group of Nashville college students about the death penalty.

Speaking at Belmont University, Prejean told a group of a couple hundred students how a chance encounter with someone who asked her to write to a Louisiana inmate led her to become one of the country’s leading death penalty opponents. And she urged the students to be willing to take the little steps that can lead to bigger things.

“When you see something that’s wrong, you’ve got to reach out and act,” she said. “And the quicker we can act out of our new consciousness, the freer we become. And when we don’t act, we become more paralyzed.”

Asked after the talk about Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S., Prejean said she was invited to attend Wednesday’s events. “But I was going to be one out of 15,000 people, and I already had a commitment to come here.”

Prejean said the gospel of Jesus was about justice - “the kind of gospel Pope Francis is bringing to the U.S. today.”

Prejean has been the spiritual adviser to several death row prisoners, most recently Oklahoma’s Richard Glossip. His execution was halted just hours before he was scheduled to die last week after a state appeals court agreed to hear new evidence.


Volkswagen CEO steps down, takes responsibility for scandal

BERLIN (AP) - Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned Wednesday, days after admitting that the world’s top-selling carmaker had rigged diesel emissions to pass U.S. tests during his tenure.

No replacement was announced, and VW still has no easy exit from a scandal that has suddenly dented a reputation for trustworthiness that took decades to build. The smog-test trickery has wiped out billions in VW’s market value and raised the specter of criminal investigations and billions more in fines.

Winterkorn took responsibility for the “irregularities” found by U.S. inspectors in VW’s diesel engines, but insisted he had personally done nothing wrong.

“I am doing this in the interests of the company even though I am not aware of any wrongdoing on my part,” his statement said. “Volkswagen needs a fresh start … I am clearing the way for this fresh start with my resignation.”

Winterkorn, 68, resigned following a crisis meeting of the Volkswagen supervisory board’s executive committee. Its acting chairman, Berthold Huber, said company directors are “resolved to embark with determination on a credible new beginning.”

Huber said a successor will be discussed at a board meeting on Friday that was originally intended to approve extending Winterkorn’s contract through 2018.


$5M lawsuit filed after Jackson couple killed in wreck

JACKSON, Tenn. (AP) - A Jackson attorney has filed a $5 million lawsuit on behalf of two boys after their father and his wife were killed in a car accident in Jackson on July 30.

Multiple media outlets report that attorney Mark Donahoe filed the lawsuit Friday on behalf of Jay Hogan’s 6- and 12-year-old sons. The lawsuit says that 18-year-olds Markarious Searchy and Jordan Bailey were racing when Searchy’s car hit the Hogans’ car, killing 44-year-old Jay Hogan and 32-year-old Julie Hogan.

Both Searchy and Bailey declined The Jackson Sun’s request for comment.

According to the Jackson Police Department accident report, two witnesses said they saw two black cars traveling at high speed before the accident occurred. Searchy and Bailey were both driving black cars.

Police say the accident is still under investigation.

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