Memphis Police, Shelby County Sheriff work to recruit and retain officers with bonuses, incentives

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Memphis Police Department (MPD) and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) are working to hire and retain officers by offering bonuses and incentives.

Both agencies are more than 400 commissioned law enforcement officers short of their goals.

At the end of March, MPD had a total of 1,933 commissioned officers compared to a goal of 2,500 officers set by the Memphis City Council.

SCSO had 646 deputy sheriffs at the end of March, compared to a budgeted number of 718 for the current fiscal year.

There were 585 correctional deputies on the payroll, compared to a budget of 923.

Mike Collins, a former SCSO deputy, said incentives to become a law enforcement officer are far more lucrative now than when he started his career over 30 years ago.

He said all departments have to compete to keep well-trained officers.

“I had a former student that went through the Memphis Police Academy,” he said. “Graduated that January, then graduated from college that May. He resigned and went into the private sector as a security manager.”

Collins said departments have to be creative by offering incentives.

In order to attract and retain officers, MPD is offering a signing bonus of $15,000 to new recruits.

Residency requirements were also lifted this year for first responders in Memphis and Shelby County.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland has proposed a 10% raise for officers over two years.

Other incentives include a relocation reimbursement of up to $10,000; a retention incentive of 9% per year for up to five years; a $5,000 referral bonus; and a speedier application process.

For SCSO, incentives include a fast-track application process that allows applicants to take all entry tests on the same day.

The entry-level salary has also increased from $37,512.32 to $42,803.04, records show.

Other recruitment efforts include a $5,000 signing bonus, reduced residency exemption pay from $2,500 to $1,500 per year, and a $1,000 referral fee for a candidate hired and employed for 12 months.