Memphis City Council: Budget proposal to raise MPD salaries could boost recruitment

Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 5:25 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A proposed budget amendment could help the Memphis Police Department alleviate its years-long staffing shortage.

Councilman Chase Carlisle announced during Tuesday’s Memphis City Council Committee meeting that he intends to present a roughly $30 million amendment to the city’s budget, directed toward public safety.

“At the end of the day, it all comes down to money,” Carlisle said.

The breakdown would include annual allocations of $15 million to raise police salaries, $5 million for MATA, $5 million for the city’s affordable housing trust fund, and $5 million for youth services.

“We know that public safety is not just police officers,” Carlisle said outside committee chambers. “The $5 million for youth services... not to go outside the City of Memphis, but specifically to increase activities at libraries, community centers during the summer, extended hours, cooling centers. These are the things that we’ve talked about on this council since before I got on the body. It’s time to put our money where our mouth is.”

The $15 million in salary raises would make MPD more competitive in recruitment.

“Our pay should be comparable to other cities,” said MPD Chief CJ Davis. “Competing with neighboring agencies is important, but I think that the type of work that our officers do every day, the hard work, the heavy lifting that they do every day, is comparable to other cities.”

Davis and MPD leadership were called to the council committee to give a presentation on the number of specialized units and task forces within the department.

The hope of the presentation, in Davis’s words, was to “open the eyes” of the council and the public to just how many units there are within MPD.

That number is 35, and they make up half of MPD’s commissioned officers, the remaining half being on uniformed patrol.

The presentation came after there have been calls from the activist community to disband all specialized units within MPD, following the death of Tyre Nichols and the disbanding of the SCORPION Unit.

Several councilors agreed with MPD that these units need to remain in place.

On the subject of vehicle crime, a crime that continues to plague the Bluff City, councilors asked if there have been conversations about reallocating personnel to better staff the auto theft task force.

Deputy Chief Don Crowe told the council, “To increase the staffing of the auto theft force means decreasing the staff of the precinct.”

Davis said there has been progress with recruiting, with 115 recruits to all hopefully add to the roughly 1,950 officers currently on the force.

“This year, we’ll probably have a net gain,” Davis said. “That’s what we’re accomplishing. We’re trying to hire more people so that we can get above that 2,000 mark and move closer to that 2,500 mark.”

The $30 million proposal would certainly help with that, but it could mean a tax increase for Memphians.

“A tax increase is the last thing that I want for the citizens of Memphis, but the thing that I do want is to make sure that (Memphians) feel safe, that they’re getting the services that they’ve paid for,” said Carlisle.

MPD will host a hiring expo on Saturday, April 8, at 170 North Main in Downtown Memphis from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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