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Memphis City Councilman proposes $30 million for public safety, including pay increase for police, even if it raises taxes

Memphis City Council Budget Chairman Chase Carlisle said $15 million of the money could go to a hike in starting pay for the city's police officers.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Memphis City Councilman is proposing $30 million of the mayor’s budget to boost public safety, $15 million of which could go to a pay raise for some police officers. And he said taxpayers could end up footing the bill.

“If you’re in a very tough labor market, trying to recruit police officers and you want the best talent possible," Memphis City Council Budget Chairman Chase Carlisle said. "Instead of lowering the standards at the academy, raise the standards but expect to get a higher quality candidate. Which requires higher pay.”  

Carlisle said in the public safety committee Tuesday that he and others plan to propose the $30 million in new funding, which would be broken down as follows:

  • $15 million to increase starting pay for MPD officers,
  • $5 million for MATA (Memphis Area Transit Authority),
  • $5 million for youth programming, such as libraries, parks etc.,
  • And $5 million for the city’s affordable housing fund.

Carlisle told the committee the $15 million would help increase the starting pay for Memphis Police officers. If pay is more competitive, it could help recruit more officers to the force, Carlisle believes.

Carlisle also said the proposal should be considered, even if it raises taxes for citizens.

For Memphis' city leaders police reform and police recruitment is a balancing act as car thefts continue.  

“I know we’re in the middle and still talking about and working on and reforming based on other egregious acts and predominantly Tyre Nichols,” Councilman Chase Carlisle said. “But the vast majority of people that our police department serves are victims of crimes and they're often forgot about.” 

MPD said so far this year there have been 304 arrests for car thefts and about 40% of those suspects are under the age of 18. 

As calls continue from some Memphians to deactivate all specialized units MPD made the case to the city as to why the 35 active units are necessary. 

“Almost every unit that you see that we have, is a best practice across the United States and across the globe," Carlisle “So if you don’t want the federal government here and you don’t want organized crime. Who’s going to be responsible?”   

One of those units is the “Auto Theft Task Force” and Chief CJ Davis says needs bolstering with new hires.  

"You can’t do the same thing with an 11-year-old as you would with a 20-year-old,” Davis said. “But we will continue to work on it and move resources where we need to and also work with our young people from a preventative and proactive standpoint. it’s a lot of hard work and our pay should be comparable to other cities.”

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