MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – If a local Congressman gets his way, Washington could soon be chipping in to pay for more Memphis Police officers on patrol.
Memphis Congressman Steve Cohen re-introduced the Safer Streets Act, which would use grants to hire police officers in cities hit hardest by violent crime, including Memphis. Rep. Cohen’s proposal stalled last year and still faces hurdles this year, but crime advocates are both hopeful and cautious.
“I want to thank Congressman Cohen for really focusing on this,” Memphis Shelby Crime Commission President Bill Gibbons said.
“So you put the money in the places where it’s most needed, where there’s the most crime,” Rep. Cohen said.
If the Safer Streets Act passes, it would leverage federal money to hire police officers and set up surveillance equipment in cities hit hardest by violent crime, between two and four times the national average. That includes the city of Memphis.
“We continue, in my view, to have a shortage of police officers,” Gibbons said.
As of Friday, Memphis Police are at 2073 total officers, but that’s well below the peak staffing level of 2452 officers in 2011.
“One of the things I do is try to get as much money as I can for Memphis,” Rep. Cohen said. “We are a poor city and we need as much as help as we can get from the federal government.”
“It’s not a matter of just the number of resources, but how you utilize those resources,” Gibbons said.
Gibbons said while Memphis would welcome federal money to pay for more MPD officers, he also offered a message of caution.
“You need to make sure the money is being spent effectively on practices that have a good track record and appear to be working,” Gibbons said.
Rep. Cohen hopes the Safer Streets Act proposal gets a House committee hearing in September or October, and if passed, to be included in next year’s overall federal budget.