Memphis police lowered standards amid soaring crime

Memphis, Tennessee (AP) — Beyond Beating, Kicking, Swearing, and Pepper Spray video The fatal arrest of Tyre Nichols at the hands of a young Memphis police officer is as remarkable as it lacks, with an experienced supervisor showing up to stop them.

This is an acknowledgment by the Memphis Police Chief that police departments were relentlessly hunted down when the city became one of the nation’s hotspots for murder. A chronic shortage of police officers, especially supervisors, an increasing number of police resignations, and a struggle to recruit qualified personnel. We are looking for

A former recruiter for the Memphis Police Department told The Associated Press that in recent years there has been a growing sense of urgency to fill hundreds of slots, resulting in the agency increasing incentives and lowering standards. .

“They just want this number, so they’ll allow almost anyone to become a police officer,” said Alvin Davis, a former lieutenant in charge of recruiting before retiring last year out of frustration. They aren’t ready for it.”

The department offered new hires a $15,000 signing bonus and a $10,000 relocation allowance, and phased out requirements for college credit, military service, or previous police work. Currently all that is required is two years of work experience. No work experience required. The department also sought state waivers for hiring applicants with criminal records. The police academy also abolished the timing requirement for physical training and removed running entirely because too many people were failing it.

“If you ask them why they want to be a police officer, they’ll be honest. They’ll tell you it’s strictly about money.” “For them, it’s not a career like ours. It’s just a job.”

Recruit recruiters from another former patrol officer who recently left the department told AP that, in addition to hiring from other law enforcement agencies and college campuses, recruits are increasingly coming from McDonald’s and Dunkin’ drive-thru jobs. He said that he was

In one case, a stripper submitted an application. She wasn’t hired, but she said, “Anyone can get this job. You can get any type of experience and become a police officer.”

“There were red flags,” said a former recruiter who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss personnel and hiring. I have not heard of

Many young officers found themselves pushed into specialized units, such as special forces, before stepping alongside their more experienced colleagues. Disbanded SCORPION High Crime Strike Forces Involved in Nichols Case Arrested. Their inexperience was a shock to veterans. They said some young police officers who have returned to patrol don’t even know how to write traffic tickets or answer domestic phone calls.

“They don’t know felonies from misdemeanors,” Davis said. “They don’t even know right or wrong yet.”

Memphis police did not respond to a request for comment on employment standards.

Of the 5 SCORPION team officers currently indicted second degree murder The two had only two years of military service when Nichols was beaten on January 7, and none had more than six years’ experience.

One of the police officers, Emmitt Martin III, 30, a former tight end of the Bethel University football team, has been arrested at least once, according to files from the state oversight body, the Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission. It seems that However, the date and details of the incident were blacked out.

Another police officer, Demetrius Haley, who worked at the Shelby County Correctional Facility before joining the military, the arrest section of 30 agency files was also compiled from state records. Haley was accused of beating an inmate, but Haley denied it and the case was dismissed because the paperwork was not properly served.

Ronal Serpus, Nashville and New Orleans police chief and former head of the Washington State Patrol, said, “If you lower your standards, you can expect problems to arise because we recruited from humanity. “There are very few people who want to do this, and very few people who actually want to do this.”

In many ways, Memphis stands as a microcosm of the myriad crises facing police in America. Departments from Seattle to New Orleans are struggling to deploy competent police officers amid a nationwide scrutiny and call for reform movement following the 2020 murder of George Floyd.

Staffing growth was a primary goal when I took over as Memphis Police Chief in June 2021. Her department aims to increase its staff from 2,100 to 2,500, which is closer to the size of the police force a decade ago, she announced. Instead, her police ranks have plummeted to her 1,939 officers, even though the population has grown and the number of murders has surpassed her 300 in the past two years.

The primary reason for the decline in ranks is that more than 1,350 police officers resigned or retired in the last decade. In the last two years alone he has over 300.

In an interview with the AP last week, Davis said the shortage of supervisors was of particular concern, noting that 125 new supervisor slots had been approved by the city but had not yet been filled.

Davis said the agency is investigating, among other things, why supervisors did not respond to Nichols’ arrest, despite agency policy requiring superior officers when pepper spray and stun guns are deployed. Stated.

“If it had happened, someone could have been there to intercept what happened,” Davis said.

“Culture eats policy at police station lunches,” she added. “Without checks and balances, problems arise.”

Michael Williams, former president of the Memphis Police Association, a union of police officers, said strict supervision was essential, especially for a professional team like SCORPION.

“Why have an elite task force that knows it’s not covering a base if it’s designed for aggressive policing? They might have to shoot someone. “They might have to kick down someone’s door. They might have to physically restrain someone,” Williams said. , should have experienced to keep them from taking the dark path.”

Longtime Memphis Police Department observers say this isn’t the first moment of reckoning for a department with a history of civil rights violations.

19-year-old black man after Darius Stewart’s death in 2015 fatally shot White police officer, activist, and Tennessee Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen called on the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct a “pattern or practice” investigation of civil rights violations in the department. Such inquiries often lead to radical changes, such as reviewing staffing and training.

Carlos Moore, an attorney for the Stewart family, alerted the Justice Department at the time of the fatal tendencies that preceded Stewart’s death. There have been more than 24 suspicious killings of civilians by

The Justice Department decided not to initiate such an investigation because it did not explain why at the time, and declined to comment this week.

“The Justice Department missed a golden opportunity to properly investigate the Memphis Police Department,” Moore said in an interview. “It was just as corrupt as it is now.”

Thaddeus Johnson, a former Memphis police officer and now professor of criminal justice at Georgia State University, said the missed opportunity for federal intervention led to a surge in crime, community mistrust, and chronic staffing. The agency’s problems, such as shortages, got worse until it exploded, he said.

“A lethal brew came together,” he said.


Condon and Mustian reported from New York


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