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Mayor Strickland's Weekly Update: Jan. 11, 2019
Weekly Update: How we've improved public safety staffing
Posted on 01/11/2019

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When we took office three years ago, we encountered a critical challenge with public safety staffing.

Think about it: In the four years prior to my administration, the City drastically reduced the recruiting and hiring of police officers (which led to me voting against most budgets while a councilman). Employee pay hadn’t increased in more than six years, including a two-year span that actually contained a pay decrease. Promotions weren’t happening. Changes to the employee benefit package, though necessary to avoid financial calamity for our city, had caused attrition to rise.

Our first step? We asked our employees how to make things better.

Then, we went to work.

Since 2016, I’m proud to report that:

  • To date, commissioned Fire and Police employees have received pay increases ranging from 5.75 percent to 7.75 percent.
  • A subsidy for pre-65 retiree health insurance, the 2014 removal of which was a huge thing the employees asked us to address, was restored.
  • We unclogged the promotional pipeline, and now routinely reward worthy Police and Fire employees with big career steps.
  • We ramped up recruiting, and have graduated more police officers in the past 17 months than the prior six years combined. (In August 2017, just before the first graduating class that was a product of our big recruiting push, we had 1,909 officers. Today, we have 2,017. We will likely reach 2,100 this year, continuing our climb toward 2,300 by 2020, which will allow us to maximize our community policing and Blue CRUSH efforts.)
  • Attrition has decreased. Take Police, for instance. Due to the usual retirements and other departures, we lose 100-120 officers in a normal year. The year before we took office, 185 officers left the force. In 2018, fewer than 130 officers left.
  • Benefits have improved, including better tuition benefits and more affordable health insurance.
  • We have seen positive results from the nationally unprecedented $6.1 million grant from private funds that went toward retention bonuses for our police officers.
  • Fire in particular has been very successful in attracting new recruits from other cities. More than 100 new Memphis Fire employees have joined our department from other departments in just the past year and a half.

In short, we have improved the pay, benefits, and promotional process, and we will continue to do so. Like so many challenges we face, our work is not over. Far from it. What we’ve done thus far is simply part of a multi-year plan to make things better for our public servants.

But it’s important that you know the facts — where we were, what we’ve done, and our goals for the future.

Got potholes?: Our crews in Public Works have worked hard to improve how we respond to reported potholes, reducing our response time to under two days by the end of last year. But as we enter “pothole season,” we know that more have popped up and more are on the way.

We need your help — we need you to report a pothole when you see one. You can call 3-1-1, visit, or use the very handy and recently updated Memphis 311 app.

Many of our most well-traveled streets are actually state highways (see a list here), and the Tennessee Department of Transportation fills the potholes on them. You can report potholes to TDOT by calling 684-5467. And if you report a pothole on a state route via our 311 system, we will pass the word along.

Looking ahead: I appreciate The Commercial Appeal for asking me to write a guest column on our plans and dreams for 2019. It’s a good summary of where we are and where we want to go as a City government this year, and I encourage you to read it.

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Each Friday, Mayor Jim Strickland sends his Weekly Update email. It's a recap of events from the week, a celebration of Memphis' successes, and a frank look at our challenges. To receive the Weekly Update in your inbox, sign up here.

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