The Mercury News
Amid soaring crime, department lowered the bar for hiring
MEMPHIS, TENN. >> Beyond the beating, kicking, cursing and pepper spraying, the video of Tyre Nichols' deadly arrest at the hands of young Memphis police officers is just as notable for what's missing — any experienced supervisors showing up to stop them.
That points to a dangerous confluence of trends that Memphis' police chief acknowledged have dogged the department as the city became one of the nation's murder hotspots: a chronic shortage of officers, especially supervisors, increasing numbers of police quitting and a struggle to bring in qualified recruits.
Former Memphis police recruiters told The Associated Press of a growing desperation to fill hundreds of slots in recent years that drove the department to increase incentives and lower its standards.
“They would allow just pretty much anybody to be a police officer because they just want these numbers,” said Alvin Davis, a former lieutenant in charge of recruiting before he retired last year out of frustration. “They're not ready for it.”
The department offered new recruits $15,000 signing bonuses and $10,000 relocation allowances while phasing out requirements to have either college credits, military service or previous police work. All that's now required is two years' work experience — any work experience.
The department also sought state waivers to hire applicants with criminal records. And the police academy even dropped timing requirements on physical fitness drills and removed running entirely because too many people were failing. “I asked them what made you want to be the police and they'll be honest — they'll tell you it's strictly about the money,” Davis said, adding that many recruits would ask the minimum time they would actually have to serve to keep the bonus money. “It's not a career for them like it was to us. It's just a job.”
Officer texted photo of Nichols after beating
As Tyre Nichols sat propped against a police car, bloodied, dazed and handcuffed after being beaten by a group of Memphis police officers, one of those officers took a picture of him and sent it to at least five people, the Memphis Police Department said in a document released by the state Tuesday.
The document was sent to the Tennessee Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission as part of a request last month for the regulatory agency to decertify five officers involved in the beating. Those officers have since been fired and charged with seconddegree murder in Nichols' death.
The decertification would make the fired officers ineligible to work as police officers in the state.
In the newly released documents, police officials said one of the five officers, Demetrius Haley, admitted to sending a photograph of Nichols. to at least five people, including two fellow officers, a civilian employee of the department and a female acquaintance. A sixth person also received the photo, the records state.
Michael Stengel, a lawyer for Haley, did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.