City explores shuffling resources within Memphis Police Department

Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin
Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - With growing concerns about city savings, the Wharton administration is putting every single agency at Memphis City Hall under the microscope.

Now, the Memphis Police is the mayor's top priority, and a shuffling of resources is on the horizon.

"Clearly the Memphis Police Department has made major strides in reducing crime," Memphis CAO George Little said Wednesday. "The question is, what do we do to take it to the next level?"

Little says city savings means city streamlining for the Memphis Police Department.

"Some of it may be personnel decisions, and some of it may be functional decisions in other areas," he said.

According to Little, the personnel decisions involve the realignment of resources.  For example, should patrol officers answer traffic calls, and should the city hire police officers instead of police service technicians, since officers have more flexibility?

"I think the mayor wants the real numbers from me as far as personnel and what it's going to take to ensure the safety of our citizens," Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin said.

Godwin says the mayor wants to improve upon the Blue Crush business model.

"He's pretty adamant about public safety, and I like that," Godwin laughed.

Blue Crush collects stats to pinpoint crime hot spots so police know how to maximize resources.  Little says an outside auditor will review the program to see how the city can keep crime stats dropping.

Crime dropped 15% in 2009, and police were still able to come out in the black.  In 2007, Godwin had a $1.5 million surplus.  The department had a $3.5 million surplus in 2008, and last year, the police surplus was $3.4 million.

Godwin credits his staff and finance director.

"We meet regularly and we've had a surplus every year, so we've been able to do some things," he said.

Police finance director Chuck Fox say 90% of police department's budget is personnel, and credits the savings on scaling down overtime.  And, unfortunately, 30 to 45 percent of police recruits flunked out of the academy.

But city leaders have always said it's better to screen on the front end instead of paying a bigger price on the back end.

"At this point, we're not really being driven by the budget, but that's coming next," Little said.

Little says the shuffle will take place between now and the start of the next fiscal year.

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