Mid-South law enforcement recruitment struggles amid police protests, pandemic

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and the Memphis Police Department could be shaped by recruiting challenges moving forward.

The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office entered 2020 with the ambitious goal of expanding ahead of deannexation.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and some local calls to re-evaluate law enforcement, SCSO is feeling confident in its projections, thanks in part to modern methods.

“We’ve been increasing the amounts of stuff we’re doing online, through our social media, Facebook, Twitter,” SCSO spokesperson John Morris said. “It’s opened up a new avenue for us, but in a sense it’s kind of broadened it.”

Even more concerning is the potential effect on the Memphis Police Department.

Mike Williams, president of the Memphis Police Association, said he expects MPD to fall short of filling the 2,300 jobs it hoped to fill by 2021.

He said he thinks COVID-19 threw a wrench into the process, and recent anti-police sentiment has made potential recruits think twice before joining.

“If I can’t project or look out and see this is what I want, then I would definitely have to reconsider,” Williams said.

With six months until expansion is needed, the sheriff’s office feels optimistic about hitting its quota and bringing in extra hires.

“Yes, we believe that those projections will stay steady,” Morris said. “People like to work for the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.”

But on the other side of the coin, MPD is concerned for its officers and the public if numbers don’t improve.

“You’re gonna have some very fatigued, frustrated, stressed out individuals that are gonna be out here patrolling the streets, and that’s just the bottom line,” Williams said.

Both the Memphis Police Department and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office are always actively recruiting.

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