Police State 

Even if a controversial plan to hire 650 new officers is approved, it will take years before extra officers start fighting crime.

Don't expect to see more police officers hitting the streets anytime soon.

Last month, Mayor W.W. Herenton announced a proposal to add 650 new officers to the Memphis Police Department, a move that came in response to an FBI report ranking Memphis the second most dangerous metro area in the country.

But if the City Council approves the 50-cent property tax hike needed to hire more cops, it may still be a few years before the extra officers will be able to make a dent in Memphis' high crime rate.

It could take as long as two years to get officers from the first batch of recruits onto the streets as full-fledged officers, according to public information officer Vince Higgins.

"You have to recruit the first group, get their background checks and physicals, and get them pre-screened for the job," says Higgins. "They'll be at the police academy for 21 to 24 weeks, and they have a year of probation."

Higgins says the first class would probably include 150 potential officers. Generally, only about 10 percent of applicants qualify for the academy.

The recruitment process -- background checks, interviews, physicals, etc. -- for the first 150 officers could take anywhere from three to six months. Then, the officers would attend the police academy for five to six months.

"Keep in mind there's attrition in the class. Some fail the academics. Some fail the firearms. Some are injured during training," says Higgins. "At the end of six months, we might end up with 125 officers graduating."

Those who complete the training will enter a year-long probationary period, during which they'll ride with a partner for nine months and continue to be monitored for another three.

City councilman Ricky Peete says the mayor's proposal to hire 650 officers within two years is unreasonable given the time it takes to recruit and train.

"It's highly unrealistic," says Peete. "I think a much more manageable number is somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 new hires a year."

Herenton's proposed 50-cent tax hike includes funds for officer salaries, as well as necessary equipment: cars, uniforms, weapons, and electronic PDA systems.

Last week, the City Council asked the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission to review the mayor's proposal.

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