City Council passes $6.1 million grant to help recruit, retain MPD officers

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The Memphis City Council has passed a $6.1 million grant aimed at helping the local police department recruit and retain more officers.

The four-year grant is from private donors from the Shelby County Crime Commission. Its goal is to have the number of officers at 2,300 by the year 2020.

MPD currently has 1,970 officers.

The grant also aims to retain more officers through raises and bonuses. Officers with at least 12 years served will get a 2 percent raise, plus a $1,600 bonus. Other officers will get a 1 percent raise.

This is the third pay increase since the beginning of last year, according to the city.

In addition, officers who have been with the MPD for three to 11 years will be eligible for up to $7,000 in bonuses if they stay on the force for a four-year period. Officers can also get a $2,000 bonus for referring someone who ends up becoming a police officer in Memphis.

But the grant hasn't been without its share of criticism from the Memphis Police Association, which wants the money to go to something else. They also want to know where the money is coming from.

The grant is funded by private donors and the union wants to know who they are, saying the money could be a political incentive for businesses in the community.

MPA leaders also say they should've been more involved in the grant process and criticized how it was handled.

"It’s not easy to get a $6.1 million grant in order to promote public safety, so I’m not going to be one that says we’re going to deny any type of grant," said City Council member Edmund Ford, Jr.

Councilman Ford said he doesn't care to know where the money is coming from and is just thankful for those who donated it.

"It takes someone with courage to come up with ideas and take the criticism, but it’s easy for anybody to say no to this and no to this and no to this and come up with nothing," he added.

But MPA said they've proposed a half-cent sales tax increase in the past and want the public to be able to vote on it. They said the money would go toward reinstating health care and pensions.

However, the city said it would actually take a 30-40 percent tax increase to fund that.

"I’ve already seen historically that anything this administration or this council member does or bring to the table that does not match exactly what the MPA or MFFA wants, it’s an automatic no," said Council member Ford.