MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland revealed unsettling statistics regarding the Memphis Police Department staffing challenges, but he made sure to add a silver lining.
Right now, MPD has 1,915 officers employed, which is the lowest number in at least a decade. In November 2011, the department had 2,452 officers.
Strickland assured the public that staffing Memphis Police Department has been a "key area of emphasis," and because of that, the largest class in seven years will graduate from the academy in a few short weeks.
In his newsletter, the mayor listed the following steps his administration has taken -- and continues to take -- to recruit more police officers.
- The largest recruit class in seven years is currently at the academy.
- Two classes are funded in this budget.
- The next class starts Aug. 28, with a goal of 100 recruits.
- We expanded recruitment to neighboring cities; recent visits to Birmingham, Jackson (Miss.) and Little Rock increased our lateral recruiting applications by 30 percent.
- We worked to fix an antiquated hiring process -- we're now allowing candidates to apply online, for instance, which has increased our applications by 70 percent.
- We brought back the PST program as a force multiplier to allow commissioned officers to focus on violent crime and created the Blue Path program as a pipeline to become a PST.
- We landed a nationally unprecedented $6.1 million grant for retention bonuses and to boost recruiting.
- Officer compensation has improved, including three pay increases in 18 months and the restoration of pre-65 health insurance subsidies.