Could we soon see Police Service Technicians back with the Memphis Police?
The role within MPD no longer exists but Mayor A C Wharton says it's a program worth considering. Technicians helped relieve officers of duties like crash investigations and offered support personnel. The goal is to give officers more time to fight real crime.
Under former Police Director Larry Godwin's recommendation, city council pulled funding for those technicians. But for many years, James Bolden, another former police director, said those technicians offered much needed support to officers.
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"It was a Godsend for many of our police officers," Bolden said.
A picture dating back to 1984 shows first Memphis Police Service Technician graduating class. Former Director Bolden said he trained this group, who mostly handled traffic wrecks.
"It served to free up police officers to get more involved in crime fighting," Bolden said. "One of the more important elements was visibility."
Bolden, who is now the Southwest Tennessee Community College Public Safety Director, said the program, known as PST, was successful. Under the program, PST's received an eye-opening experience to police work, including dealing with the public.
Bolden said some moved up the law enforcement ranks, including the current deputy director and deputy chief.
"As of 2009, out of the original 70 PST's that started, still 27 on in 2009," he said.
While the long-time program was eventually disbanded, Bolden said he couldn't let the concept go. In 2010, he started a campus safety technician program to help commissioned officers focus on crime prevention.
"Our campus safety technicians are work-study students," he said. "I've used this program to increase the graduate rate for students."
Bolden says campus safety technicians help monitor the campus, provide escorts, support personnel. They also learn investigative techniques outside the classroom.
Memphis Police use several screening processes for potential officers but Bolden says the PST program offered invaluable insight, too. Veterans could observe a PST's behavior to determine who deserved a badge.
"Certainly being able to see them actually perform on the job and to interact with the public gives you an idea what type of candidate they would be," he said.
The police service technicians made between $22,00 - $28,000 a year, plus received a free two-year college education. Bolden recommends MPD start a program to utilize PST's to help develop crime scene technicians and crash reconstructionists.
He said the college is willing to partner with police.