MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG) — A massive recruiting campaign by the Memphis Police Department seems to have been put on pause since the death of Tyre Nichols.
Weekend job fairs once had folks lining up to be a part of the “Best In Blue” as the city pushed to increase the number of officers on the force. Now, police recruiting may get a second look.
City Councilwoman Rhonda Logan, head of the city’s public safety committee, said the Nichols case put a negative spotlight on Memphis and could make police recruiting even more challenging.
“It’s going to be really challenging to get people to want to go into law enforcement,” she said. “This, among other things, are really changing the way and the perception that young people have of public safety, law enforcement.”
And it comes at a time when Memphis is in need of more officers.
Logan said the City Council passed a resolution approving 2,500 officers, but the latest report from MPD showed they had just under 2,000.
She said it’s going to take some relationship-building to get those numbers up.
“Hopefully, you know, we can come together and look at ways in which we can get back to the policing that we, my generation, grew up on. Really trusting the police, knowing that they are there for our safety and security,” Logan said.
She said it means going back to community policing.
Retired Police Lt. Tyrone Currie, now executive director of the Afro-American Police Association, says building positive relationships is what the association has been about for years. Community policing is at the crux of that.
“About a decade ago we had 10, what we call, Coact Units, simply community police units throughout the city of Memphis,” Currie said. “There was a unit in every area of the city. Those units were charged with building a relationship with the businesses, schools.”
But he said Memphis has moved away from that, and as result, there has been an increase in crime in Memphis.
He wants to see a renewed focus on prevention and intervention, in addition to enforcement. Things like officers in schools and community centers interacting with students during programs, mentoring, and leading clothes and food drives.
Currie said kids in the community once wanted to be law enforcement officers because they saw the work done in community policing.
“That didn’t cost any money. You are educating,” he said.
But he says a lot of progress made by police over the years was quickly dismantled, with every blow Tyre Nichols took at the hands of police.
“We saw our 50 years of hard work go down the drain within three minutes,” Currie said.
It’s why the City Council is asking MPD for specific details in their next briefing before the council, including specific changes being made in the areas of recruiting, hiring, testing and training.
Logan said that will go a long way in recruiting new officers and retaining those already serving.
“We also need to make certain, though, that we are embracing those that are laying their lives down every day, and that have been honorable law officers that have, you know, been exemplary in their service,” Logan said.
She said the council can get behind in helping to make the changes happen.
“Sometimes they say that we don’t have the funds for community police, and well, I feel we don’t have the funds not to,” she said. “Because it’s so important, and that’s something that we’re gonna have to do. Redirecting funds is a way to make certain that they’re there, because it’s necessary for us to get back to what worked, and we’ve had a history of community police thing working.”