MEMPHIS, TN – The City of Memphis is considering $36 million in cuts to the police and fire departments over the next five years. The proposal is drawing mixed reviews.
Memphis police officers will feel the brunt of the city’s proposed public safety overhaul.
The city’s strategic fiscal and management plan found uniformed officers are performing too many civilian duties.
The strategy would be to cut the officer headcount by 280 positions and to hire and train civilian police service technicians (PST) instead.
Each PST costs $15,200 less than each sworn officer.
“I have to say it’s going to be harder in the fire department because they bit the bullet three years ago and they’re down 114 positions already,” said Mayor A C Wharton.
The strategy to streamline the fire department is to cut 24 more positions and have fewer fire fighters on trucks where the workload is lower.
Analysts identified 12 low-workload engines, eight low-workload ladders, and eight low-workload ambulances.
“This directly affects the citizens’ safety in this city and eventually, the citizens are going to have to make it known this is not conducive to them being able to live in a safe environment,” said Memphis Police Association President Mike Williams.
Another strategy is to save $7.6 million by consolidating police and fire back office functions, including administrative, financial and personnel services.
Residents have mixed reaction.
“They need to give them a raise, to be honest,” said Larteena Yarbrough.
“I think it’s a great idea, actually,” said Brent Lightfoot.
“It’s going to boil down to a policy decision on how many police officers, how many precincts, how many fire stations,” explained Mayor Wharton. “This is why you have 13 council members.”
Memphis City Council will make the ultimate decision on any cuts.