The city of Memphis will pay police officers a $500 bonus in August to help curb an exodus that has left the city short more than 400 officers, and will offer incentives to boost recruitment, according to an internal city memo sent out Monday.
Chief Human Resources Officer Alexandria Smith said in the memo to officers that current officers will get the “retention bonus” in addition to a July 1 pay increase of between 2.75 percent and 3.75 percent, depending on years of service.
Police officers who are designated as “peer counselors” and complete training will also receive an extra $50 per month beginning July 1, the memo says.
“Within the limited resources available to us, we are dedicated to identifying future opportunities to further enhance and expand the rewards offered to our employees because we know what makes Memphis great: You,” Smith said in the memo.
The shortage of officers and firefighters is widely thought to be fueled in part by recent cuts and changes to health care and retirement benefits, especially the Dec. 31 end of a 70 percent subsidy of health insurance premiums for retirees younger than 65.
The city, which recently launched its “Join the best in blue” recruitment campaign, is also offering incentives to help recruit for its two officer candidate classes in the fiscal year beginning July 1. The classes will each have 80-100 candidates, although considerably fewer are expected to graduate.
The city will launch a Public Safety Down Payment Assistance Program on Aug. 1 that will give recruits $10,000 to buy a house in the city limits.
Also, city employees will get a $500 referral bonus if they refer an applicant to the police academy who completes all the requirements.
The new incentives and bonuses were discussed by the Memphis Public Safety Task Force in April, when Smith said the $313,000 needed to implement them was baked into Mayor Jim Strickland’s budget.