Steven Seagal wants you ... to be a Memphis police officer. According to Memphis police director Larry Godwin, the buff martial-arts master/actor has volunteered to star in television commercials aimed at recruiting new officers.
Last year, the City Council voted to lower academic requirements for police applicants with no college coursework. They also relaxed the residency rules to allow applicants who live inside Shelby County. Previously, officers were required to have two years of college or active military and live within the city limits.
Though the force is expected to be at 2,220 officers by this fall, Godwin expects to lose some officers due to attrition. He believes Memphis could keep more officers by improving pension plans and the promotional process. And he'd like to see the city relax the residency requirement even more to assist with recruiting. — by Bianca Phillips
Flyer: Why did Steven Seagal volunteer to help with ads?
Godwin: I was at his house and he said, "Boss, Memphis has been good to me. I want to give something back. I get a lot of money for an advertisement, close to a million dollars. But I will do advertisements for you for nothing."
How are other cities retaining officers?
There are some pretty good salaries across the country for commissioners, directors, and chiefs. I heard a story about a guy from Kentucky who made $224,000. In his pension plan, he gets 90 percent of his salary.
I make $116,000 and get 68.2 percent [of my salary]. And I've been here 30 years. That's where we're lacking. When you talk about pension benefits, ours is horrible. If you look at our retired chiefs, majors, and inspectors, they're all working other jobs now. They stay retired for about three to five years, and then they can't afford it.
Why do we lose officers?
We lose some to terminations. We lose many to resignations that think the grass is greener somewhere else. And we lose some because they can't get promoted.
We need to have a continuous circle of advancement within the department. When officers see movement, they feel better. When they see raises, they feel better.
Have the new requirements made a difference in recruitment?
We relaxed the residency on the last class for people who live in Shelby County. We got 84 applicants. Over a third of those live outside the city limits.
We also relaxed the college requirement. We have 61 people in class right now. Out of that 61, 31 of them do not have college. We would only have 30 folks right now if we hadn't changed the requirements.
Do you think the residency requirement should be less restrictive?
I'd like to make it so that you can live anywhere if you can be at work within two hours. Most of those people would come from Tipton County or Fayette County or Southaven.
I want the most qualified applicant. I don't care where you live, but you better do your job. That's the bottom line.