If it were all about logic, the discussion of raising the standards to be a Memphis Police officer would seem to squarely fall on the side of inquisitive Memphis City Councilman Jim Strickland.
"It appeared to me that the best deterrence against a police officer committing a crime is to actually have a degree, instead of no college or just some college," says Strickland.
But, to police representatives and City Human Resources Director, Quinton Robinson, Strickland's suggestion, as a way to insure a higher level of police recruits while potentially weeding out bad ones, appeared to strike them as an utterly foreign concept.
"We'd have to look at it to see if a four year degree gives you a significantly better outcome. So, I don't know," says Robinson.
But, Robinson's vague answer belies the confusion that's been created by the changing of police recruiting standards and policies that have evolved over the last four years.
In 2008, hit by the loss of 120 officers through attrition and retirement, the MPD launched a glossy 750-thousand dollar media campaign to recruit 500 new officers over a 5-year period. The chief incentive was dropping the educational requirement to a high school degree.
"Where else can you start out at 39-thousand dollars a year with a high school education? Be a good public servant and In three years be making over 51-thousand dollars," said former MPD Director Larry Godwin in 2008.
The next year there were an estimated 6,000 applicants ready to answer the call to serve and protect the streets of Memphis. Then a certain first-term Councilman was ecstatic at the prospect of solid hires.
"We can pick the very best that there is. We oughta be getting the top notch folks," said Strickland at the time.
However, in 2010, the plan was altered again to add two years of college and the pool of a few good men and women shrank to the "pond size" of only 150 signed recruits in the last two years.
"The two year degree, the military experience and then the time spent on a post certified agency. Those are pretty solid requirements not just for MPD, but it is for the agencies across the country," says Robinson.
"Three or four years ago, we had 6-thousand applicants and now they're worried that we won't have enough if we limit it to people with college degrees. I didn't buy that argument and I think we'll need further discussion on that," says Strickland.
Strickland also asked Robinson to provide the Council within 60 days up-to-date information on the number of MPD officers who've been arrested and why they weren't terminated over the last four years. To a Council firmly committed to cleaning out the bottom of MPD's "bad apple barrel" "logical" questions demand accountable answers.
"We count on you all to insure that every person that is behind the wheel, that's carrying a badge, that wears that uniform understands the significance they have in this community," said City Councilman Harold Collins.
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