Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings tells attendees at the Frayser Exchange Club that Memphis has both a “crime problem” and a “murder problem.” But, he said, crime was down by six percent. (Photo: Dr. Sybil C. Mitchell)

Memphis Police Department Director Michael Rallings was the weekly meeting highlight of the Frayser Exchange Club Foundation Thursday afternoon at Impact Church.

“I doubt if I will get to my notes today,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting to go in the direction I’m going in.”

The chief law enforcer engaged the audience with anecdotes, statistics and some lessons he’s learned since taking office as the city’s top cop. Rallings was recently named “Police Chief of 2019” by the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police, the state’s professional organization for law enforcement leaders throughout the state.

“Some of the police chiefs said, ‘Oh, you have a hard job in Memphis.’ And it’s true. I do have a hard job, but I have the honor of serving with many dedicated men and women who put on a uniform and go out to serve people they don’t know because they love this city. We love the city of Memphis.”

Rallings, who took over the department in 2016, detailed the challenge MPD has had recruiting and retaining officers, noting that at one point the police force was down to 1900.

“We called Shelby County Sheriffs to patrol the city. That was a level in which the National Guard should have been called. Today, we have 2,072 officers. Under Director Tony Armstrong, that number was 2,500. We need to be operating at 2,600. We should all be grateful for the 85 new recruits who are training at the police academy right now.”

Memphis has both a “crime problem” and a “murder problem.” But, he said, crime was down by six percent.

“We do have a crime problem, it’s true, but Memphis has a murder problem. The University of Memphis did a study in 2016. There were 228 homicides that year. And of those homicides, 136 were murders. You see, murder is different from homicide. A murder is an unlawful killing. A homicide could be a justifiable killing—self defense or defense of others who were being threatened.”

Rallings also said studies have found that individuals who were more likely to either become murderers or victims of homicide had two things in common: early exposure to domestic violence and they tended to be high school dropouts.

Referring back to the six percent decrease in crime, Rallings addressed the assertion that he was “cooking the numbers.”

“Look, nobody is cooking the numbers. When crime is up, we say it. When it is down, we celebrate it. Over the past year, there have been 2,400 fewer victims of crime: 150 less shootings, 800 less residential burglaries, and 600 business burglaries.

Literacy in various forms is needed in our young people, Rallings said.

“Young people need academic literacy, financial literacy, social literacy, and spiritual literacy. Down there in the jail, they can barely read. I mean, some have graduated from high school and can barely read and write. That should make us angry because our schools are not being accountable.

“They need to be taught how to save their money,” he said. “They don’t need to have the flashiest thing out. Social literacy is needed so that they know how to interact with others in a socially acceptable way. And finally, they need some spiritual guidance so that there is some clear sense of what is right and wrong. All of these are lacking.”

MPD director with retiree Tyrone Curry. (Photo: Dr. Sybil C. Mitchell)

Rallings commended newly retired officer Tyrone Curry, who prominently represented the Afro-American Police Association. October’s theme for the Frayser Exchange Club is recognizing law enforcement. Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner Jr. is next week’s featured speaker.

Frayser Exchange Club Foundation meets weekly for lunch every Thursday at Impact Church, 2025 Clifton, to hear an inspiring message and share community announcements, news, and upcoming events. Lunch begins at 11:45 a.m.

For more information, call 901-757-9868.