Public safety committee discusses Memphis police recruitment

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — How well is the city doing recruiting public safety officers? It’s a topic tackled Thursday by a public safety committee made up of various city and community leaders.

If you live in or around Shelby County you’ve heard about public safety officer retention and recruitment a lot lately, as well as the difficulties that come with it.

“I would like to see some of the old school tactics return to the neighborhoods and our communities,” City Councilwoman Jamita Swearengen said.

Many stressed the importance of community policing, improving trust with officers as well as other issues. 

One thing that I hope can come out of this is the implementation of a demilitarized, optimally funded and culturally competent public safety apparatus,” said Earle Fisher, Senior Pastor of Abyssinian Missionary Baptist Church.

Members heard how police officers are recruited, asking questions like how many have prior military experience or how many applicants have been rejected because of previous marijuana convictions in their younger years. 

A big bottom line: form relationships early. 

“Reaching the youth is going to make the difference. Reaching the youth with engagement, education, relationship building,” City Councilwoman Rhonda Logan said.

Another point: prioritizing how money is spent. 

“I’ve been hearing a lot of community outcry about defunding and I’m going to tell you, a lot of the police department has already been defunded,” said Mike Williams, president of the Memphis Police Association.

“And a lot of people aren’t going to know what I’m saying, but when you had 2,500 officers and you get down to 1,900 officers, that led to about $75 million that went somewhere. Was it re-invested into the community? Probably not. It went to other places,” Williams said.

After several meetings the committee will take their recommendations back to the police and fire divisions with recommendations for best practices of recruiting, hiring, training and retaining public safety officers.

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