Web exclusive: Mike Rallings talks about officer morale, ‘new policing’ and listening to the silent majority

Investigations

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — WREG sat down with Memphis Police Director Mike Rallings for an interview recently, and the conversation continued beyond our initial story.

Below is what Rallings had to say about several important issues the Memphis Police Department has faced in recent months.

RELATED: Is coronavirus to blame for the crime wave crashing down on Memphis?

Officer morale during the pandemic and protests

“It’s a very difficult time. Not just for officers but the command staff. We have worked very, very hard in the community. We have worked very hard to build relationships. To lose that in a matter of weeks is very disturbing.

“Before the George Floyd incident, we were applauding our essential workers and our police and fire were part of that group. I just hope that our citizens are continuing to recognize the sacrifice and work that our men and women in the Police Department do. I certainly recognize that sacrifice that our officers make.

“We have been negatively affected by COVID. We have a large number of employees that have been positive or have been under quarantine. The community is impacted and we’re impacted. These brave men and women continue to come to work during a pandemic and during unrest. Twelve officers have been exposed to some type of gunfire. That’s rather alarming. But we have some great men and women and I thank God every day for them.”

Police reforms in wake of protests

“This new policing we are talking about — what does that look like? I don’t think we have all those answers. I think President Barack Obama gave us a blueprint in 21st-century policing. I think a lot of things that people are asking for, there’s already a blueprint out there.

“We should look at what’s out there. Look at what these departments are doing first before we talk about doing something different. If you don’t know where you’re at, we may have a challenge of plotting a direct path for the change you want to see. Look at where we are at. Listen to each other. Review the data.

“Let’s have concrete concise, deliberate conversations about it. Agree on a set of reforms. Then move forward. That’s my recommendation.”

Listening to the ‘vast majority’

“We have to make sure that everybody is represented. What I am seeing is that often the vast majority, we haven’t provided the proper format for them to be heard, or they are afraid to come forward and be heard.

“I hear from the media quite a bit. I hear from activists quite a bit. I just want to make sure we are capturing opinions and desires from people all over Memphis. Memphis is a city of 650,000 people. There’s a lot of people to hear from. I want to make sure we’re hearing all of their voices.”

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