Memphis City Council takes a look at police response times

Published: Jan. 24, 2023 at 6:38 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - City leaders are concerned about the response time for Memphis police officers.

During Tuesday’s city council committee meeting, the department explained some of the reasons for the long wait times, something Raleigh residents are no strangers to.

“You’re going to be waiting there a good minute unless it’s life-threatening,” said resident John Willingham.

The latest MPD data shows response times in the Austin Peay and Mt. Moriah areas take nearly half an hour.

“Whether it’s the welfare of a citizen in distress or it’s an armed robbery (I guess, for lack of better words), basically, we’re saying the average response time for any and all calls for Austin Peay is almost 29 minutes?” Councilmen Frank Colvett Jr. asked.

“Yes sir, that’s correct,” replied an officer from the Memphis Police Department.

During Tuesday’s City Council Committee meeting, the department broke down its response times from the past four years.

“We dispatch on priority,” the department said. “So, the higher the priority... we assign that in my office. If it’s something serious or life-threatening, that’s always going to get dispatched on... ahead of something where there’s no potential loss of life or injury.”

MPD says shootings, abductions or carjackings have a 7.75-minute response time.

But some residents say otherwise.

“My grandchild and I were in my bed watching a movie and a bullet came through our window,” said one resident who wished to remain anonymous. “Right in front of me and my granddaughter, through my closet, and I called the police... it took them about an hour and a half to get there.”

The department says an uptick in service calls is one reason for the delays.

“The calls for service have increased the number of calls that we’re responding to,” an officer said. “Last year, we did 760,000, when we look back at 2021, we were at 699,000, so we are seeing an increase for service.”

Staffing is also an issue.

The department confirms the same number of officers cover each area, large or small.

And while concerning, Willingham said, “I think they’re doing the best they can with what they have right now.”

Department leaders said they’re looking at staggering shifts to cover some overlap, and continuing conversations about re-districting, something the department did back in 2013.

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