Weekly Update: How we're rebuilding MPD


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Since we launched this weekly email back in January 2016, there probably isn’t a single topic we’ve discussed more than our efforts to rebuild the Memphis Police Department.

In a nutshell: We inherited an antiquated recruiting process, one in which the only way to apply was in person on a paper form. And, we were steadily losing officers thanks in no small part to a dramatic cutback in recruiting by the City between 2012 and 2015. In 2014, for instance, the academy did not graduate a single officer.

We dug in and started to fix things. In June 2016, after months of work, we publicly launched the Best in Blue recruiting campaign. The pipeline of applicants started to swell. And by March 2017, the first class that could benefit from that recruiting emphasis started with the largest number of recruits in years.

In August 2017, those recruits who made it through the academy — 85 of them — graduated. The morning before that graduation, we were at a modern low in officers — 1,909. Today, due in no small part to all of these efforts we started implementing on day one, we are at 2,078. That’s a net gain of almost 175 officers in just two years.

I’ll put it more plainly: In 2017 and 2018 alone, we graduated 312 officers from the academy. That’s more than the entire five and a half prior years combined.

This chart tells the story even better:

MPD Academy

The work continues; 118 new officers have graduated from the academy thus far in 2019. We currently have a class set to graduate in November, which should put us at our goal of 2,100 officers by year’s end. And, another class starts at the academy next week. They’ll join the force in early 2020.

As much as I would have loved snapping my fingers on Jan. 1, 2016, and hiring 500 new officers to start the next day, that’s impossible. Fixing the broken structures we found when we took office, plus the months-long process of recruiting and testing, plus the nearly six-month training academy, dictates that this is long work.

But it’s important work, as a fully staffed police department plays a major role in reducing crime — our community’s No. 1 shared goal.

Boosting our young people: As you know, during the past two summers, we implemented literacy training at our community center summer camps in partnership with Literacy Mid-South. This week, we learned just how much it's paying off.

As part of a pilot program, we did pre-camp and post-camp reading level assessments of the children who took part in our programming. The assessments told us that 74 percent either maintained or improved their reading levels — a big number, considering that the national statistics tell us that students lose 38 percent of their reading ability over the summer months.

Coming soon: Working with the private sector to draw more and more investment to all of our neighborhoods has been a priority of mine. In the past year or so, I’ve been working with multiple consultants to bring more retail and restaurant options to Whitehaven.

Today, I’m proud to break the news that Starbucks has signed a letter of intent for a community store in Whitehaven. Starbucks will be sharing more in the near future about specifics. Welcome to the neighborhood, Starbucks!

Reinvesting in our civic assets: It was great to cut the ribbon on the reimagined Cornelia Crenshaw Libary branch this week.

Crenshaw Library

Whether it be with our facilities or our programming, our administration has ensured that our libraries are undergoing a renaissance. Since 2016, we’ve seen more than a 400 percent increase in our library programming participation! Our libraries are invaluable to the communities they serve and those numbers are proof of that.

Memphis has momentum: Here in Memphis, we all know things are on the upswing. This week, people around the nation got to see it, too.

Monday night, Memphis couldn’t have looked any better in the premiere of “Bluff City Law” on NBC. Almost five million people got a first-hand look at our authentic and wonderful city — and they’ll get to see us at 9 o’clock every Monday night from here on.

And last night, in front of a national TV audience on ESPN, our Tigers continued their march toward a historic season with a win over Navy. The crowd at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium looked great.

Yes, Memphis has momentum — and more than just Memphians are seeing it.

Shanah Tovah!: This weekend marks the start of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. To our Jewish friends and neighbors in Memphis: Shanah Tovah!

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