Memphis Police Association: Expect recruiting issues following anti-police sentiment

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Since his first campaign, Mayor Jim Strickland has been adamant about filling the ranks at the Memphis Police Department. The department hopes to fill 2,300 positions by the end of this year, but they’re still at least 200 short.

FOX13 spoke exclusively to the president of the Memphis Police Association who said that goal is even farther from view now because of anti-police sentiment.

Many will tell you police officers are underpaid, and in many instances are also acting as social workers, domestic violence counselors, and truancy officers. Their responsibilities keep adding up while their funding is being threatened, leaving many to wonder ‘why bother?'

For up-to-the-minute updates and BREAKING ALERTS as the protests continue across our area, download the FOX13 News app. You can also follow FOX13 on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Memphis Police Association President Mike Williams told FOX13, “I think you really need to think about what it is you really want to do when it pertains to the City of Memphis.”

Williams had a warning for those in office who have turned their back on the police. “You’re going to have, and maybe this is what people want, you’re going to have individuals go and do other things,” he said.

There are instances of anti-police sentiment across the nation, with officers attacked in New York and LA, a “blue flu” in Atlanta, and calls for defunding the police in Memphis.

“You’ve already got officers talking about leaving now, leaving this profession because it’s not worth it,” said Williams.

The new is not good for Memphis Police Director Mike Rallings, who has said before he is in a staffing crisis.

Just as the department was nearing 2,100 officers, COVID-19 hit, putting an end to training academies and making Mayor Jim Strickland’s goal of 2,300 officers by the end of 2020 even farther from reach.

“I’ve been getting calls all weekend about how stressed out officers are,” Williams told FOX13. “A lot of these guys are out here on the front lines, they’re at these protests, and you’ve been out there. You see how they’re talking to these officers. They’re all up in their faces. They’re trying to provoke them.”

Williams said dozens of MPD officers have advanced degrees or other skills. They do the job because they love it.

“You’ve got a lot of individuals that don’t think it’s worth it anymore. You talk about defunding. You want to take away the money, don’t want to give raises, want to put additional responsibilities on me because of what a few have done,” he said.

FOX13 reached out to both MPD and Mayor Strickland’s office for comment on any concerns about a “blue flu” in Memphis, as well as recruitment and retainment concerns.

MPD did not reply.

Strickland’s office said, “Recruiting and retaining police officers has been a priority for Mayor Strickland since he took office in 2016. That has not changed, and it’s why the mayor wants voters to decide if residency requirements should be relaxed.”