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Faith Marshall

Faith Marshall is a police officer and member of the negotiation team for the Memphis Police Association. Born and raised in the Westwood neighborhood, Marshall worked in communications and online development for small businesses before joining the police department.

On police pay, Atlanta offers Memphis a convenient truth

By Published: April 17, 2019 5:20 PM CT
<strong>Faith Marshall, who grew up in the Westwood area, serves on the Memphis Police Department. </strong>(Submitted photo)

Faith Marshall, who grew up in the Westwood area, serves on the Memphis Police Department. (Submitted photo)

A two-term city council member is now mayor of a large Southern city. Following negotiations, a raise of 3% was offered and budgeted for police officer pay. The union, however, says that this is not enough, arguing that officers will still make far less than the national average while also lagging behind smaller departments in the area.

 And the mayor agreed.

 Shortly thereafter, the police department and police association released a joint study that found the city’s police were paid below the median rates of their law enforcement peers, with a lower floor, lower ceiling and a longer wait to advance from the bottom to the top. Patrolmen in their department were paid 30.5% below market value, while senior patrolmen were paid 20.7% below market value. The study also showed sergeant pay at 28.3% below market value.

In response, the mayor stated, “This study shows us what we already knew – that we need to double down on our efforts to make our city the safest big city in America. It is time for the city to take care of those who take care of us, which is why our administration will immediately get to work to provide our officers with the compensation they deserve.”

 And get to work they did.

 A few months later, the mayor announced an additional 7% pay increase on top of the 3%, for a total of 10%. The mayor and city council found the additional $10 million to cover the cost by digging into the budget and allocating $2.47 million from the city’s general fund and $7.53 million from the police department’s general and aviation revenue funds. The mayor also announced that police wages would be increased by an additional 20% over the next two years so that the city’s police wages would be competitive both regionally and nationally.

As a proud Memphian, I wish I could say this was my city. As a Memphian who votes, I wish I could say this was my mayor and city council. As a Memphian who is also a police officer, I wish I could say that this was a real commitment to valuing my work and its impact on the safety and well-being of the citizens that I serve.

Unlike Atlanta, we live in a city with a mayor who offered police a 3% raise, and when we told him that wasn’t enough, he said that was all he had to give.

But that’s not enough when morale is at an all-time low and attrition is historically high amongst those of us responsible for enforcing the law in a city that consistently lands in the top of the FBI’s 10 most dangerous cities.

Certain measures, of course, have been taken to stem the tide. Mayor Jim Strickland came into office in 2016 with the goal of reaching a commissioned staff of 2,300 police officers by next year. Resources have been invested and recruitment has been expanded both geographically and demographically, resulting in an average of five classes of new officers per year.

Despite those efforts, however, an employee analysis report from February showed that we had only 2,014 officers, an indication that the personnel count is holding steady even with increased numbers coming through the academy.

In addition to increased recruitment, a grant of $6.1 million in officer retention bonuses was gifted the department in 2017 by the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission, a nonprofit organization with a focus on violent crime and stricter sentencing guidelines related to gun offenses. Unfortunately, retention bonuses were a short-term measure, offered only for a period of four years to officers with three or more years of service.

The head of our negotiating team described how Atlanta found a way to increase police wages as our city’s inconvenient truth.

But I see it a bit differently. Atlanta is a very convenient example of what can be done when a city is willing to step up and do the right thing. The evidence shows that recruiting and bonuses alone will not solve our issues; the commitment to transforming those building blocks into a solid foundation begins with a willingness by all parties to collaborate on a comprehensive public safety policy. Atlanta, with its Olympics, Super Bowl and eye towards being crowned the safest city, found the mission, money and motivation to make it happen. So can we.

The Daily Memphian welcomes a diverse range of views and invites readers to submit guest columns by contacting Peggy Burch, community engagement editor, at pburch@dailymemphian.com.

Topics

Memphis Police Jim Strickland MPD Faith Marshall Memphis Police Association Atlanta

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