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Memphis Police spending almost $1M to recruit officers

MEMPHIS, Tenn — As Mayor Jim Strickland tries to rebuild the ranks of the Memphis Police Department, the city is hoping to recruit officers from cities as close as Jackson, Mississippi and as far as Seattle.

To do that, they’re budgeting and adding resources.

Sixty-six new officers just swore an oath to the Memphis Police Department, bringing its staff total to 2,020.

But for Strickland it’s still not enough.

"We have 40 officers in a class right now and we start a new class in October where the goal is over 100. We are moving. It takes time,” he said.

To get there, the city budgeted $916,230 for recruiting this year. That includes commercials on TV, radio, social media and even Pandora in cities including Seattle, Chicago and Jackson, Mississippi.

"Are you ready to start a career that’s bigger than you?” one ad asks. “Then you should consider becoming a Memphis Police officer.”

They say they’ve also visited colleges in Dallas, Houston, Shreveport and Lafayette, Louisiana.

"Penny Hardaway is an example that we need to be aggressive in our recruiting tactics," Strickland said. "We’re going all over the country and we’re looking for 4- and 5-star players.”

But Mike Williams with the Memphis Police Association wonders if the recruiting is effective.

"One of my concerns is we have to be careful about just putting people in the academy for numbers. We have to have qualified individuals,” Williams said.

New numbers from MPD show how many people made it through their last five recruitment classes.

In 2010, under Mayor AC Wharton, the 110th class entered with 69 recruits, but finished with only 29. The following class started with 47, and finished with just 21.

Fast forward to the most recent class — they started with 73 and finished with 66. The numbers are encouraging but, Police Director Michael Rallings said it's still not enough.

"For us to answer the almost million calls a year and serve one of the largest cities in the nation, we need x amount of officers," Rallings said. "1,950, 2,000 officers are not adequate to serve our city.“

He knows the recruitment must continue.

According to the city, they've recruited 45 officers from Illinois, four from Washington, 136 from Mississippi, one from Louisiana and 15 from Texas.