$6M grant aims to recruit, retain more officers

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Mayor Jim Strickland announced Monday a grant aiming to enlarge the size of the Memphis police force.

The four-year, $6.1 million grant from the Shelby County Crime Commission is intended to recruit and retain more MPD officers.

The grant will work to increase the number of officers to 2,300 by the year 2020.

MPD currently has 1,970 officers, down from a high of about 2,500 in November 2011 when the amount of major violent crime had dropped significantly. Crime has since gone up, and with it the staffing shortage grew, the city said.

The city mainly attributed the shortage to normal attrition, a decrease in recruiting classes and officers leaving because of benefit changes in 2014.

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.

Strickland and MPD Director Michael Rallings said they will also propose to freeze the Deferred Retirement Option Program to help stabilize the ranks.

The city said things are already looking up, with attrition slowing, but there's still a significant shortage that requires officers to work overtime just for MPD to meet basic coverage needs.