Police director affirms need for additional officers

At a press conference Thursday, Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton proposed adding hundreds of new police officers to curb a recent upswing in crime.  In order to add those officers, he proposed a 50 cent increase in city property taxes over the next two years.

In an exclusive interview Friday with Action News 5, Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin said the mayor has his support.

"I'm like the mayor," Godwin said.  "I'm optimistic about it."

Godwin, speaking for the first time since Thursday's news conference, said the need for officers is real.  That statement was in conflict to what the Godwin said when he went before the city council during recent budget meetings, saying then department did not need additional officers.

"That was a good decision then," Godwin said of his previous statements.  "But I think as a director of police, it is my responsibility to look one, two, three, four, and five years down the road."

Jack Sammons, chair of the city council budget committee, said the prospect of a 50 cent property tax increase was slim.  "I don't thin this council is going to walk in there Tuesday and say, 'No problem, here's another 50 cent tax increase.'  The citizens aren't going to allow."

Sammons said he thinks the money can be found elsewhere, suggesting that Herenton and the council donate part of their salaries.  While a spokesperson for the mayor said that wouldn't pay for much, Sammons said the council may have to "rob Peter to pay Paul" to get the money.

Godwin said even if the $25 million needed to add the suggest number of new officers suddenly appeared, it will take time to hire and train new officers.