A public-private committee studying police recruitment and retention told the Memphis City Council yesterday it needs to relax the residency requirement and fix a broken promotions process if it wants to attract more officers, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reports. The recommendations mirror previous requests from Police Director Larry Godwin. After studying 12 sister cities, the committee found Memphis was the only city to require police officers to live within its boundaries. New York City’s residency policy allows officers to live within the city’s surrounding boroughs.
Maj. Michael Rallings, commander of the Police Training Academy, said many officers feel uncomfortable living in the neighborhood where they arrest people, fearing a chance encounter on the street with an individual they incarcerated. Councilwoman Barbara Swearengen Ware was having none of it. “We have the ability to recruit everywhere, but in six months they have to move into the city,” she said. Carol Ross-Spang of Methodist Healthcare said the department’s promotions process — handled by the city’s human resources department and mired in lawsuits — is a drag on recruitment and retention. There are officers who have been on the force for 13 years who have not been able to advance to sergeant.