MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Hiring and retaining police officers has been a down and up affair in Memphis over the past four years.
The city hits its modern low of 1,910 in July 2017.
Since then, the city has gained roughly 170 officers in 26 months.
In terms of a net-gain of officers, where does that put the Memphis Police Department under Mayor Strickland?
Last week, FOX13 Investigates reported that in Strickland’s first 44 months in office, there was a net-gain of three officers, according to city data released in August 2019, the latest publicly available data.
Strickland said last week he was “very pleased” with the increase over the past two years, even as he was questioned about the net-total during his first term.
The next day, before our interview with Dir. Michael Rallings, Memphis Police released new staffing numbers from September.
As of September 16, the department has 2,084 on staff, which makes a net-gain of 20 police officers in 45 months in office.
Rallings started as the full-time director in August of 2016. Under his tenure, MPD has a net-gain of 71 officers.
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When asked if he was satisfied with his 36 months in office, Rallings said he is “never satisfied.”
“We always want to do better,” said Rallings. “[W]hen I measure us against the climate in the nation, the difficulties we’re having nationally with recruiting and retaining police officers, I think that we’ve done a good job.”
Rallings said years of attrition took a toll on the department.
“The first thing I told the mayor was that we had to stop the bleeding and the bleeding was with so many officers retiring,” said Rallings.
More officers left MPD than were hired every year from 2013 to 2017, according to city data provided to FOX13 Investigates.
The department turned it around in 2018 as it hired more officers than those that left to attrition, its first year in half a decade.
So why did it take years to gain more officers?
Rallings said it took time to get the recruitment campaign going.
He said there is a four-month hiring process, followed by six months in the academy for new recruits.
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