In April, voters in Memphis will be asked to consider a change in the city ordinances to allow a shift in how the head of the police department is determined.
Currently, voters elect a City Marshal for a four year term.
A ballot proposal will ask for voter approval of the elimination of that position, to be replaced with a Police Chief, who would be appointed by the Mayor, with the approval of the city council.
City officials explained the ballot proposal is being offered because of a sharp decline in the number of law enforcement officers applying for positions with the city.
Currently the city has just one full-time officer, in addition to the elected City Marshal, Bill Holland.
Holland explained that ideally the Memphis Police Department would operate with the chief, and three full-time officers, but it has not been at that full contingency during his tenure.
The MPD had been operating with Holland and two additional full-time officers for several years, but has been down to just Holland and Officer Zach Campbell for more than six months now.
Under the current policy, the City Marshal is paid a salary, and is not eligible for overtime. Council members have been reviewing options to address this issue, as currently the MPD is operating undermanned, requiring overtime for the one full-time officer as well as the marshal.
“It isn’t a very fair financial situation when you have an employee earning enough in overtime that they are making more money than their supervisor, even though that supervisor is working as much, if not more, while maintaining significantly more responsibilities of operating the department,” said Alderman Chris Feeney.
Council members also noted, that the current ordinance requires the City Marshal to be a resident of the City of Memphis, which further limits the number of potential candidates.
“Chief Holland does a fantastic job,” said Alderman Feeney. “If he decides to move outside of the city limits, the current ordinance would prevent him from continuing to serve as the head of our police department. This proposed ordinance change would give your elected officials the ability to hire the best police chief, and also to make sure the position is paid according to the amount of time it takes to do the job.”