Questions emerge around Memphis police chief's stolen gun

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When we first reported on the theft of Memphis Police Chief C.J. Davis’s backup service pistol from a car this past weekend, we noted that Davis had reportedly stored her firearm in a lockbox, but the lockbox itself was stolen out of the car along with a backpack. That led me to recommend a car safe with the option to secure it within the vehicle itself, which I still believe is good advice.

As it turns out, though, it’s also the official guideline of the Memphis PD, at least for officers on duty.

If the lockbox was not attached to the car, Davis could have been in violation of the department’s policy, according to The Commercial Appeal’s review of the MPD policy manual. That policy says the lockbox should be attached to the car.

There’s also a lack of clarity about who would investigate Davis if she was found to have violated department policy. She outranks everyone else in the police department and only reports to Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland.

In an interview Tuesday, Strickland said there would be no further scrutiny of the incident from his office.

“I’m not referring it to anyone. Chief Davis reports directly to me. She and I have spoken about this incident and we are moving forward. She has my full faith. And we are laser-focused on reducing crime and rebuilding the police department including improved pay for [police] officers,” Strickland said.

That’s awfully nice of the mayor, considering the chief does appear to have violated the department’s policy, which states:

Officer’s Responsibility for Safety of Firearms, Ammunition, and Handcuffs:

1. Officers are responsible for keeping both on duty and off duty firearms, ammunition, and all issued equipment under safe and protected conditions, especially preventing their use, theft, tampering, or damage by others. This responsibility extends when the firearm is carried on the person, or stored in any place. This responsibility extends to officers when in both on duty and off duty status. Officers should take all necessary steps to prevent the loss or theft of firearms.

2. Guidelines for safe and proper storage of firearms:

• Vehicles – Placing or locking a weapon in a glove compartment or trunk should not be considered safe in itself. However, a secured device such as a gun safe, which is fixed and attached to the vehicle, would be a safe measure.

Note, though, that these are “guidelines” for storing firearms, not requirements, so it’s unclear what discipline a rank-and-file officer would face if they did the same thing. Something tells me, though, that it wouldn’t result in a pat on the back and wave of the hand from the city’s mayor or the department’s Internal Affairs division.

Since this is the chief we’re talking about, however, the city’s going to quickly move on and the media will likely follow suit.. at least until or if the chief’s gun is recovered. If her sidearm is found at a crime scene or traced to a shooting the mayor may have a big enough public relations problem on his hands that he’ll have to revisit the issue, but short of that this story is going to quickly disappear from public view.

Leaving your gun unsecured in your vehicle isn’t a crime in Tennessee, and I don’t think it should be. Still, I do encourage folks to secure their gun if they have to leave it behind in their car, and a lockbox that can be picked up and carted off isn’t secured at all. Don’t make the same mistake the chief did. It’s easy enough to find an in-car safe that can be locked in place, and that will greatly improve the odds of you hanging on to your gun if a thief does decide your vehicle makes an attractive target.