MPD finalizing application push for next recruit class as council looks to loosen residency requirements

Updated: Dec. 2, 2019 at 5:40 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Memphis Police Department is completing a push for applicants for the department’s next recruit class. Meantime, Memphis City Council members are slated to vote Tuesday on opening up recruiting to residents living outside of Shelby County.

There are two Memphis City Council meetings left in 2019, and those meetings will be the last for this term of council members. Six members on the 13 member body will be new in 2020.

In midtown Monday, MPD held a recruitment workshop to help applicants ensure their materials are complete for a Friday, Dec. 6 application deadline to be a part of MPD’s 132nd recruit class.

MPD director Mike Rallings has been pushing the council for weeks to lift residency requirements. The director said the force needs a net gain of roughly 400 officers. Rallings and Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland wanted to allow those within a two hour drive from the city to be able to apply for public safety jobs like police and fire.

But two weeks ago, council members in a compromise signaled they’d support expanding the applicant pool to neighboring counties or within 50 miles of the city. Outgoing Memphis City Council Chairman Kemp Conrad called it a good compromise.

“I don’t think it’s good policy to exclude good people who are willing to risk a lot to keep Memphis safe and keep our city growing,” said Conrad.

MPD has said filling recruiting classes is a time-consuming process, and it can take anywhere from two to four months from application to final offer. Applicants tend to fall out of consideration through physical agility tests, background reviews, psychological or medical reviews. They’re also prone to injury at the academy, and often candidates apply at a number of law enforcement agencies and take the offer they receive first.

Conrad said the police residency question is a priority and likely one of the last big decisions this slate of council members will make.

“All we are doing is giving the people the right to vote on this,” he said, “I would hope that this would have at least a supermajority of support from the council.”

The next MPD recruit class is set to start at the academy in February.

The council would need to vote yes on opening up the applicant pool Tuesday, and then again in two weeks on the third reading for Memphis voters to get the question at the ballot. That could happen by fall of 2020.

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