VOL. 131 | NO. 94 | Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Rallings May Seek Permanent Director Post
By Bill Dries
When law enforcement brass talk about putting “drugs and guns on the table” – it’s a literal expression of a police department touting its ability.
Interim Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings did just that last week with the results of a 2 1/2 month operation by the police Organized Crime Unit that began Feb. 1, his first day on the job as police director.
The take displayed at a Thursday, May 5, press conference included 130 guns, 233 pounds of marijuana, 1,118 grams of crack and powder cocaine and smaller amounts of heroin, methamphetamine, Xanax and other prescription drugs.
The undertaking, which came under the heading of a Blue CRUSH operation, included 394 felony arrests – 61 of them firearms charges, 424 misdemeanor arrests and 808 misdemeanor citations.
The guns seized included six taken in a burglary of a Bartlett gun store.
“I was an undercover agent,” Rallings said of the display. “This is probably one of the largest collections of guns that I have witnessed.”
This week, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said he had encouraged Rallings to apply for the police director’s job on a permanent basis and Rallings said he will likely do that.
Strickland was also quick to say that doesn’t mean he’s calling off the national search the administration is undertaking for the next police director.
Rallings became police director following the departure of Toney Armstrong at the end of January to become director of security for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Armstrong had been on interim status since Strickland took office as mayor in January.
Strickland’s goal is to present a new permanent police director to the Memphis City Council for approval sometime in August, he said last week on the WKNO/Channel 10 program Behind The Headlines.
The search is being conducted by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
Strickland boosted the director’s pay by $20,000 a year from what Armstrong was making as part of a move to a higher salary that Strickland has said could go as high as $250,000 a year.
“We were paying our police director about $130,000,” Strickland said of Armstrong. “The director of security at the Shelby County Schools system makes more than that. So we weren’t competitive in the market.”
Even with the table full of guns and drugs in front of him last week, Rallings faced questions about the city’s high homicide rate compared to a year ago.
Just as statistics guide police coverage in the Blue CRUSH approach to fighting crime, they are likely to be a factor in whether Rallings is still police director at the end of the summer.
The homicide total stood at 78 as of May 5, compared to 47 at the same time in 2015.
Memphis-Shelby Crime Commission statistics for the first three months of 2016 show a homicide rate of 6.7 per 100,000 people in Memphis, or a 69.2 percent increase from the first quarter of 2015. It was part of a 16.7 percent increase in the major violent crime rate for Memphis compared to a year ago.
Rallings noted that police had solved 55 of the 78 homicides by last week and that 34 of the suspects were known to their victims.
“They were friends, family members or acquaintances,” he said. “It’s almost impossible to predict. We must, as a community, take a stand. These senseless killings must stop.”
Rallings reiterated again May 5 what he has said repeatedly since he became police director a month into this year.
“We cannot do this without help from the community,” he said. “All those youth, all those children – they have parents. And often, a lot of those individuals know that they are carrying guns because they take the guns home. They are selling drugs. People need to intervene in their family members’ – their friends’ lives.”