MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - It has been a bad public relations nightmare for the Memphis Police Department. Within the last few weeks, "Memphis' Finest" had an off duty officer get into a fight on Beale Street, a police officer was caught sleeping on the job, and the latest MPD woes with Officer Sean McWhirter. He’s accused of pimping prostitutes at nightclubs and casinos.
Mayor A C Wharton says he's had enough of "bad apples" on the police force and wants to make some big changes to the way cops are recruited in Memphis.
"We often say that's just 1 out of 2,400 police officers but I'm having to say that every week now. There are 52 weeks in a year so it becomes 52 officers out of 2,400 and that becomes significant,” Mayor Wharton told abc24 news.
Wharton says he and Police Director Toney Armstrong will announce major changes soon to make sure the police department lives up to its name.
“We’ll look at things all the way from the selection criteria to supervision and monitoring after an officer is selected,” said the mayor.
The requirements for joining MPD were raised two years ago from just a high school diploma to at least 2 years of college but there are still problems within the police force. The Memphis Police Association blames poor benefits.
"Pay ‘em. Pay to get good cops to come here because if you're not going to give them the money, you're not going to give them the benefits,” said President of the Memphis Police Association, Michael Williams. “This is one of the most dangerous cities in the nation so if you want thugs policing thugs, guess what? That's what you will get."
Starting officers in Memphis are paid about the same as new officers in Nashville, around $35,000 a year. But, officers in Nashville and St. Louis have much better medical benefits and more vacation days.
“You keep taking benefits away these are the types of people you're going to end up with," said Williams.
Police officers in St. Louis are paid the best compared to Nashville and Memphis. On average an officer in St. Louis earns nearly $50,000 and gets college tuition reimbursement.