MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Thirty-one new officers swore an oath to the Memphis Police Department Friday night.
They endured 21 weeks of physical and academic training. Recruits who spoke at the ceremony said that included expected work like legal work and firearms training as well as the dreaded pepper spray test and constant "burpees."
One of the new recruits was new Patrolman Lawrence Miller; he’s an army veteran who served in Iraq and now is ready to serve at home. He said he wanted to be a role model for his kids.
“I decided to be a Memphis police officer so I could be a change to the city, help out the youth and show that I was once on the other side of law so I decided to make a change in my life,” he said.
But Miller and his new boss Director Michael Rallings know this is a challenging time for law enforcement and the city. Rallings called it one of the most difficult times in his 27 years of service.
“We’re not fooling them. They understand they got a tough job," Rallings said. “All the social ills, poverty, mental illness, they’re on the front lines. So they know exactly what I’m talking about."
The induction brought the department's total force up to 1,973. But, that mostly just made up for attrition. Mayor Jim Strickland has challenged the department to recruit a lot more by the end of the year.
“First we have to get the complement. 2300 is the complement. We're a long way from 2300,” Rallings said. “Our goal is 200 for the next class. But we’ll get as many as we can.”
With his badge, Miller knows he’s a small part of that change.
“It’s a process, it’s not going to happen overnight. But if the city stands by us, were going to stand behind the city,” he said.
The city's next recruitment class starts training in March and will graduate in September. Another class will start before the end of 2017.