MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis City Councilman Chase Carlisle announced Tuesday that he and other council members will put forth a budget resolution worth nearly $30 million, half of which would be dedicated to police salaries.
The added $15 million for officer salaries would bring Memphis up to the top pay for officers in the area, he said.
“If you want to be competitive, at the end of the day, it all comes down to money, full stop,” Carlisle said. “You have to be able to have the best possible compensation package if you want the best possible police officers. It’s just a fact.”
Memphis Police dispatchers answer some 780,000 calls a year, MPD officials said. But Carlisle said Memphis Police Department has some of the lowest top-out pay in the area.
The Memphis Police Department is seeking a complement of 2,500 officers. The department stands at about 1,900 officers, and recruiting has been a challenge.
Part of that, Carlisle says, is because officers now face criminals armed with high-powered weapons.
“We’re living in a world that did not exist 30 years ago, and we have to face and be real about that,” he said. “When these officers leave their house, like Geoffrey Redd did, they may not come home.”
Police Chief CJ Davis says there are currently 115 recruits going through training. She says higher pay could increase those numbers.
“Even though we have challenges right now, we have challenges around the country we can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.. We have some great officers. We have a great police department. We are constantly working to make our department better and more competitive,” Davis said.
Specialized MPD units were also up for discussion during Tuesday’s meeting. Police Chief CJ Davis and her staff told council members about MPD’s 35 specialized units, which touch on everything from sexual assaults to auto thefts, larcenies and cyber crimes.
“It is important to make sure that we have individuals in the department that are trained to handle certain types of criminal activity,” Davis said.
Following Tyre Nichols‘ death, the SCORPION Unit was disbanded. It was created in 2021 to suppress crime in high-crime areas.
Protesters are now calling for the disbandment of all specialized units within MPD, but some council members think that would not be a good idea.
“When I look at this list, just to see the different focus it would be absolutely irresponsible for us to entertain based upon this,” said Councilman Martavious Jones.
In addition to police salaries, Carlisle said his resolution would include another $5 million annually for affordable housing, $5 million for MATA and $5 million for services like parks and libraries.
Carlisle did not specify a funding source but said a revenue increase might be needed. The city’s budget discussions for the fiscal year 2024 are beginning soon.