FOX13 Investigates: MPD arrests, police stops down by thousands

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Data from the Memphis Police Department shows officers have made fewer stops and arrests every year since 2013.

In 2016, Memphis police officers arrested 48,867 people, a difference of nearly 30,000 arrests when compared to 2013. According to the Memphis Police Department, police arrested 77,797 people in 2013.

Sgt. Jon Stoddard retired from the Memphis Police Department about three years ago, in late 2013.

"They’re doing less partially because of fear, partially because they’re exhausted,” Stoddard said, after FOX13 showed him the data.

Stoddard said police in Memphis make fewer stops today for three reasons:  MPD’s staffing shortage, the changes to public employee benefits, and the lack of trust from the public after scrutiny and protests across the nation during the past few years.

“All of that together kind of affects the way police work in the field,” Stoddard said.

“Nowadays, is it worth it?” Stoddard asked, as he discussed why officers hesitate to initiate stops. “Is this guy going to shoot me because I’m wearing a uniform? Is my family going to be taken care of if I get killed?”

Police stops, which officers log as “traffic stops” or “subject stops” when they stop a car or a person, have also decreased since 2013.

In an interview with FOX13, Director Rallings said scrutiny from the public makes officers nervous.

“I think we should expect that officers have some reaction to this unbelievable backlash that we've seen over the last three years,” MPD Director Mike Rallings said.

Police stops increased slightly after Rallings took over as Director in 2016, but still fell about 19,000 stops short when compared to 2013. 

Rallings added that the shortage of police prevents officers from focusing as heavily on what he calls “proactive policing.”

“There's a direct correlation to staffing and our ability to fight crime,” Rallings said.

The staffing shortage and the challenges police face every day ultimately lead to less safe neighborhoods in Memphis, Stoddard said.

“Bad guys know that we're shorthanded,” Stoddard said. “They know that just as well as me and you do. And they take advantage of that.”

Tonight at 5:00 and 9:00, FOX13’s Kristin Leigh pushes Mayor Jim Strickland and Police Director Mike Rallings about the impact the decline in police work has on the local community, and she asks what’s being done to hire more officers during a period when police across the nation feel under attack.


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