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VOL. 131 | NO. 31 | Friday, February 12, 2016

Strickland Wants Contract, Pay Boost for Memphis' Next Police Director

By Bill Dries

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Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland wants to offer the next Memphis Police Department director a multi-year contract for more than the $150,000 the city is currently paying interim police director Michael Rallings.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland says he wants to boost the Memphis Police Department director’s salary from the current $150,000 to about $250,000, he said Thursday on a taping of “Behind the Headlines.”

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

“Many police departments now, when they hire a director or a chief signs a contract (it’s) a multi-year contract and the pay is much higher than what we are paying now,” Strickland said on the WKNO-TV program “Behind The Headlines.” “I think the market requires a contract.”

And Strickland said the market rate appears to be around $250,000 a year.

The show – hosted by The Daily News publisher Eric Barnes – airs at 7 p.m. Friday.

Strickland is about to sign a contract with a search firm that will recruit police director candidates and make a recommendation to him following a national search.

He estimated the city could have a permanent police director on the job by the summer.

“What I’m looking for is a strong leader who’s committed every single day to trying to drop that crime rate, who’s committed to community policing and data-driven policing, someone who can rally our officers behind a united goal,” he said.

Strickland also mentioned the national discussion about whether the reaction and fall-out from police shootings in Ferguson, Missouri, and other cities have made cops more hesitant to act, which in turn could increase violent crime nationally.

“I just need a strong leader. I don’t think necessarily that person has to change everything,” Strickland said when asked if he is looking for a change agent at the top of the police department. “That person knows more about policing than I do. I just want them to be committed to the concept of community policing and data-driven policing, which is Blue CRUSH.”

The police director is currently a mayoral-appointed and city council-approved position. But the four-year term isn’t a contract, and the mayor could remove a police director sooner with the council’s consent.

Strickland said it doesn’t appear the mayor could go beyond a four-year term of office and obligate another mayor or council.

“They certainly would have to approve the appointment and the salary and inherent in that I think would be approval of the contract,” Strickland said of the council. “I think from talking to the council early on, they realize we have to bump up the salary.”

Strickland is exploring the potential $100,000 salary bump as he puts together his first budget proposal, which will cover the city’s fiscal year that begins July 1. It’s due for presentation to the council in April.

“What I’m looking for is a strong leader who’s committed every single day to trying to drop that crime rate...”

–Jim Strickland
Memphis Mayor

In the framework of a $650 million operating budget, Strickland’s priority is a start on the $14 million it will take over several years to hire 250 more police officers and another $10 million to $20 million extra to put toward the city’s pension liability, specifically the city’s annual required contribution.

“That’s a lot of money for an economy that is not growing. I very much do not want to raise taxes,” Strickland said. “That’s our challenge. I do not know how I solve that challenge. It’s probably not going to be solved in this coming budget. But over the next few years that’s our challenge.”

The city is on a five-year, state-mandated ramp up to fully fund the city’s pension liability.

Strickland said Thursday he wants to fully fund that liability sooner because of the extra debt that comes with each fiscal year it’s not fully funded.

The city got a break on the amount of the annual required contribution this year when its investments improved. The ARC dropped from $75 million to $58 million through the five-year averaging calculation.

“I know the last six months or so have been really bad,” Strickland said of the stock market in general. “Next year my thought is it’s going to bump up to $70 million.”

Strickland has rearranged some funding in the current fiscal year’s budget to hire 10 more employees for the 911 system, in a move to drop the city’s response time to emergency calls.

But he said he doesn’t know if similar shifts in priorities will get his administration where he wants it to be in the new budget.

“Maybe. I can’t confirm that right now,” he said. “My priorities are pretty clear.”

And the priorities are the basics, starting with public safety.

Strickland expects to get a public safety employees salary study in a matter of days that looks at the pay and benefits police and firefighters make in other cities.

“I need to recruit our current police officers to stay,” Strickland said, noting the current police force is 2,080 officers compared to his goal of a police force of 2,400.

“We want to get a handle on our entire pay package … and compare ourselves to our sister cities and see where we stack up.”

MORTGAGES 80 320 1,066
BUILDING PERMITS 120 590 2,248