Strickland agrees with calls to better fund education, community; against defunding MPD

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Protesters across the country are calling for cities to defund the police. They calling for cities to take money from police budgets and redirect it to community programs and education.

But is taking money from an already financially strapped department like the Memphis Police Department the prudent thing to do?

FOX13 talked one on one with Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and he said he couldn’t disagree more.

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"I don't think it's the right thing to do. We need more police officers. Better paid. Better trained," said Strickland.

But Strickland’s stance is in direct contrast with at least one group who spent all of Wednesday camped outside of City Hall who claims the mayor isn’t listening.

"We have a really bloated police department. It takes up 50% of the city's budget," one protester said.

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FOX13 fact-checked that figure. It’s considerably less: The MPD accounts for 36% of the total budget.

In the mayor's opinion, the Memphis Democrat Socialists don't have their collective fingers on the pulse of the city.

“Nobody has been across this city like I have, talking to neighborhood groups. They want more police patrols, not fewer. So, I think it’s not the right thing to do. In fact, I think it’s out of touch with the vast majority of Memphis,” Strickland said. “You have to also lift up the great men and women you have serving in your police department. And I’m very thankful we have good people on the MPD.”

The mayor said the calls to better fund education and community are not falling on deaf ears, and he said he agrees. He pointed to expanded universal Pre-K in Memphis as one initiative on the rise under his administration and he's listening to other ideas.

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The mayor has met three times with community activists Dante Hill and Frank Gotti and other members of Memphis clergy. He said they have discussed at length a change in police tactics and the desperate need for racial sensitivity training. But so far, there has been no call to strip money from the MPD.

And if that subject is brought up, don't look for Strickland to agree.

“I just don’t think massive cuts or defunding the police department is safe,” he said.