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Memphis Police, Desperate To Fill Ranks, Lowered Hiring Standards

Beyond the beating, kicking, cursing and pepper spraying, the video of Tyre Nichols’ deadly arrest at the hands of young Memphis police officers is as notable for what’s missing — any experienced supervisors showing up to stop them. That points to a dangerous confluence of trends that Memphis’ police chief acknowledged have dogged the department as the city became one of the nation’s murder hotspots: a chronic shortage of officers, especially supervisors, increasing numbers of police quitting and a struggle to bring in qualified recruits, the Associated Press reports. Former Memphis police recruiters told of a growing desperation to fill hundreds of slots that drove the department to increase incentives and lower its standards. “They would allow just pretty much anybody to be a police officer because they just want these numbers,” said Alvin Davis, a former lieutenant in charge of recruiting before he retired last year out of frustration. “They’re not ready for it.”


The department offered new recruits $15,000 signing bonuses and $10,000 relocation allowances while phasing out requirements to have either college credits, military service or previous police work. All that’s now required is two years’ work experience — any work experience. The department sought state waivers to hire applicants with criminal records. And the police academy even dropped timing requirements on physical fitness drills and removed running entirely because too many people were failing. “I asked them what made you want to be the police and they’ll be honest — they’ll tell you it’s strictly about the money,” Davis said, adding that many recruits asked about the minimum time they would have to serve to keep the bonus money. “It’s not a career for them like it was to us. It’s just a job.” Another former patrol officer-turned-recruiter who recently left the department saaid that in addition to drawing from other law enforcement agencies and college campuses, recruits were increasingly coming from jobs at the McDonald’s and Dunkin’ drive-thrus.

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