MPD: New recruit class not full - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

MPD: New recruit class not full

(Source: WMC Action News 5) (Source: WMC Action News 5)

(WMC) - Although budgeted to have 90 recruits, a new Memphis police academy scheduled to begin September 22 will be less than two-thirds full, according to Memphis Police Department.

MPD says "57-58" recruits will be in that class because it could not get enough qualified applicants. Memphis Police Association President Mike Williams says he's not shocked.

"We are in desperate need of officers right now," he said. "But what do you expect?"

Williams says veteran officers are leaving the force in droves in the wake of changes to their health benefits, possible pension reform, and recruitment pitches from other agencies. 

In addition to recent recruitment visits from other police departments like those in Austin and Dallas, Texas, more out-of-town visitors are scheduled soon. Houston Police Department recruiters will meet with interested Memphis cops on September 9-10. Chattanooga Police Department will be in town recruiting on September 19. A subsequent visit from Charlotte Police Department is also planned.

"They're harvesting the officers out of this city," Williams said. "Councilman Flinn said, 'Hey, let them leave.' Well guess what? Your wish is coming true. They're leaving."

Williams says he believes MPD may have trouble finding qualified recruits because they may be scared off by the pension and benefits situation, though Memphis Mayor A C Wharton disputes that notion.

"So far I have not seen the depressing effect in terms of folks wanting to apply," Wharton said.

According to the mayor, many applicants who have been sitting in queue are still ready and able.

"They have a different set of expectations because no one has told them, 'You're going to have this pension, that pension, or whatever,'" he explained. "They're coming in on a clean slate."

According to MPD, some who had applied either fell out of a portion of the hiring process or simply did not show up. Regardless, the mayor says one or two academies can't fix the issue, but that the city must explore making MPD part-service.

Wharton names several services currently under review. For example, officers may stop responding to burglary alarms unless the alarm is first sent through a monitoring service that can advise the immediacy of the situation. And, he says, full-time commissioned police officers may no longer be used to respond to car wrecks that do not involve injury. They will work to staff MPD's Real Time Crime Center, or work as dedicated crime scene investigation officers. Though none of these changes have been made, Wharton says they are all under consideration.

"Absolutely we're looking at everything," Wharton said. "The priority will be getting as many boots on the street. They have to be. That's one thing you cannot hand off to somebody else."

Memphis City Councilman Harold Collins said he will reserve opinion on any changes in service until something is more official, though he contends any change in policy must be effectively and repeatedly communicated to citizens well in advance of any change.

"It's great to give one-liners and anecdotes, but we need to see a plan," he said. "What does that plan look like going forward?"

Williams bristles at the idea of a part-service police department. He says the only way to assess the actual level of danger during a burglary is to have a trained professional on the scene to make sure the situation is safe. Williams also argues that many non-injury wrecks result in arrests for DUI, suspended or revoked licenses, or outstanding warrants.

"Are we diminishing the services that we're providing to the citizens who pay their tax dollars so we can do other things?" Williams asked. "Or are we going to provide the citizens with quality police services, which is what they pay their tax dollars for?"

In addition to the academy that begins on September 22, another is slated to start in February 2015.

MPD is currently taking applications in an effort to fill that class.

Qualifications:

• A U.S. Citizen   
• 21 years of age
• High school diploma/GED     
• Valid Driver's License   
• Must establish Shelby County residency within 6 months of hire 
• No guilty pleas or felony convictions     
• No addiction to drugs or alcohol

Minimum Requirements:   

• 54 Semester Hours at a Regionally Accredited College or University with a grade of C or better,                                                                                                                                                                                  
• Two years of continuous Military Service with an honorable discharge stipulated on DD214, OR • 3 years of continuous employment as a POST certified law enforcement patrol officer at a police department with a minimum of 20 officers (Lateral Entry Only)

Applicants within a 100-mile radius can pick up an application at any of MPD's 9 police precincts. It must be filled out and returned in person to by September 19th at the Memphis Training Academy, located at 4371 O.K. Robertson Road. Those who live outside a 100-mile radius of Memphis can download the application from http://mpdacademy.com/index.php and mail it in to the Memphis Police Training Academy.

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