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VOL. 131 | NO. 95 | Thursday, May 12, 2016

Rallings Fields Council Questions On Police Hiring, Director’s Job

By Bill Dries

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Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings told city council members Tuesday it will take at least six months, and could be as long as 12 months, before the city sees a net gain in the numbers of a police force now just over the 2,000 mark.

(Daily News/Bill Dries)

Interim Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings says he has plenty of time to apply for the job on a permanent basis.

For now, Rallings told Memphis City Council members he is focused on getting a $256.3 million budget approved as part of the overall $667 million city government operating budget, dropping crime numbers and raising the number of police on the force.

“I think I would do a disservice to all of you if I was focused on getting the job and not getting the budget ready, responding to the crime and what people want,” Rallings told council members Tuesday, May 10, in budget committee sessions.

All applying for the police director’s position have until June 17 to apply.

Council member Janis Fullilove asked Rallings about applying for the job, saying the administration of Mayor Jim Strickland should “stop the foolishness of a nationwide search.”

The search will continue, Strickland said, even though he encouraged Rallings to apply.

Rallings’ operating budget proposal had a smooth journey through budget committee although that could change in the May 24 budget wrap-up session.

The budget committee lowered the amount in the police capital budget to buy new patrol cars, diverting some of the money for Memphis Fire Department vehicles.

Rallings raised the point Tuesday.

“It does impact my ability to deliver police services,” he said. “We have a very old fleet with a lot of cars to be replaced.”

He’s also called for the council to reverse its decision to keep uniform patrol officers manning security stations at City Hall. Rallings wants to use fewer officers and more private security guards similar to the security arrangement at the Criminal Justice Center.

Council members tried during the tenure of former Mayor A C Wharton to use private security guards. But the council quickly went back to police officers after a speaker at the end of council session got through security with several large metal objects in a duffel bag.

The objects turned out to be a broken trailer hitch the citizen was complaining about. But council members said they could have been guns.

Council members Tuesday questioned Rallings closely on how quickly the two police recruit classes in the new fiscal year’s budget can get officers on the street and raise the police force from its current count of just over 2,000 officers.

“You are at least looking at a six-month, almost a 12-month, time period before you see a net increase,” Rallings said.

The original budget proposal called for 100 recruits in the two classes. Rallings said that’s now 80 recruits he’s hoping for based on experience, because recruit classes always have a number of recruits who drop out during training.

While there are 2,000 officers on the police force, the MPD is funded for 2,650 in the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Council members quizzed Rallings on the department’s recruitment efforts.

“We’re heavily focused on the military,” he said. “We’ve actually revised some of our policies to accommodate military individuals.”

The department seeks those who have two years or more of continuous service in the military. But the policy has been revised to account for National Guard and Reserve members who may have that much time or more, but not continuously because of the nature of multiple deployments over the last decade in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We recognize that we are losing a valuable piece of what those individuals can offer,” he told the council.

Hearings by the budget committee, which drew nine of the 13 council members on Tuesday, will resume Tuesday, May 17.

Budget committee chairman Edmund Ford Jr. remains committed to a schedule of final votes by the full council on all budget and tax rate matters at the June 7 council session.

PROPERTY SALES 97 418 8,253
MORTGAGES 112 508 9,293
BUILDING PERMITS 194 1,059 18,126
BANKRUPTCIES 46 208 5,367