MPD Director: Memphis came within minutes of calling in National Guard during “Blue Flu” in 2014

Local News

MEMPHIS, Tenn. ( – You’ve heard of “Operation Grizzly Bear.” That’s the program they had with the Tennessee Highway Patrol and others watching the roads around here.

Well, Operation Grizzly Bear is over, but the Memphis Police are still on the job.

“Our officers are still on the interstates every day,” says Memphis Police Director Mike Rallings. “As I travel around, when I go home, I come to work our officers are still out there aggressively enforcing traffic laws.”

The fancy-schmancy term for this is proactive policing. They are not just reacting to a crime, they are trying to prevent a crime.

The city has come a long way in five years. In 2014, there were just over 1900 officers on the streets.

For the first time in public, Director Rallings talked about how close the city came to declaring an emergency.

“We should have been calling in the National Guard,” he said, “… because at 1900 police officers, we can’t deliver the proper level of service.”

That was never reported before.

Rallings says things got worse when, because of benefit cuts, police officers staged a sick in – the “blue flu” is what they called it.

“500 police officers went out sick,” he said. “That was a big deal. We were minutes away from calling in the National Guard. We had the sheriff’s department come in and patrol in the City of Memphis.”

Rallings was not director at the time, but was head of the uniform division – basically in charge of day to day operations.

Things have changed he says. Even on the interstates.

“I think our citizens are behaving better, driving the speed limit, moving over when they see a first responder in the emergency lane. Citizens have to be reminded to move over. We want to keep those first responders safe.”

The new cellphone law, one that Rallings isn’t overjoyed with, is keeping the interstate cops busy as well.

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