Former police recruiters in Memphis have spoken out against what they view were red flags leading up to the death of Tyre Nichols, blaming lowered standards and overall inexperience for the tragedy.
“They would allow just pretty much anybody to be a police officer because they just want these numbers,” Alvin Davis, a former lieutenant in charge of recruiting told The Associated Press (AP). “They’re not ready for it.”
Memphis, like many departments across the country, has struggled to find qualified police officers, falling well short of their projected 2500 goal in 2021 with only 1,973 police officers in Memphis despite a rise in violent crime, Action News 5 reported at the time. As an incentive to get people to join the force, Police Chief C.J. Davis relaxed the department’s tattoo policy and offered a $15,000 sign-on bonus, the outlet reported.
In the years leading up to Tyre Nichols’ fatal arrest, the Memphis Police Department had a chronic shortage of officers, especially supervisors, and struggled to bring in qualified recruits. https://t.co/YycLL8ItBe
— The Associated Press (@AP) February 7, 2023
“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 told the AP. Recruits would also frequently ask what was the minimum time they had to serve in order to keep the bonus money, Davis said. “It’s not a career for them like it was to us. It’s just a job,” he added.
The department also sought state waivers in order to hire people with criminal records, did away with timing requirements on physical fitness drills and even removed running from the tests all together because too many people were failing, The AP reported.
“There were red flags,” another former recruiter told The AP. “But we’re so far down the pyramid nobody really hears the little person.” (RELATED: Memphis Police Removed Another Officer From Duty Following Tyre Nichols Beating: REPORT)
Due to the shortage of officers, many new recruits who had little to no experience were reportedly placed into specialized units such as the now-disbanded SCORPION strike force infamously tied to Nichols’ death. All five of the officers charged with the beating death of Tyre Nichols had less than six years on the force and four of them had been reprimanded or suspended for various reasons including a failure to report when they had used physical force, NPR reported.