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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings says the coronavirus has put such a strain on his department that any plans to implement more community policing will have to be put on the back burner for a while.

During a virtual city council committee meeting Tuesday, the police director told council members 154 police employees are either in quarantine or have tested positive for COVID-19. He says 114 are commissioned police officers and 40 are civilians.

“Today we are 2,032 commissioned officers and you approved a company of 2,500 officers,” Rallings told council members. “So, we struggle daily under normal circumstances to keep the nine uniform police stations staffed. During the pandemic, staffing has been even more severely impacted.”

Council Member Jamita Swearengen, who is pushing for more community policing in her district, told the police director the pandemic was no excuse for the department not implementing the community policing resolution passed back in July.

“Community policing it not what it was previously and that is what we want to restore because we know that is what is require to decrease crime In our communities and to say there is a pandemic and we are low on staffing and all that to me is not a good response,” said Swearengen.

The police department agreed to reestablishing three MPD COACT, or Community Action Units, that would be manned by 26 police officers and three supervisors.

Director Rallings said the numbers matter and right now they don’t have the numbers to make that happen.

Memphis police officers have also been manning testing and food distribution sites during the pandemic.

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