MPD hosts first police recruitment class during pandemic and amid calls for defunding department

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — There are 53 new Memphis police officers hitting the streets.

The department held its first police academy class during the COVID-19 pandemic over the last few months.

The 132 basic police recruiting class graduated Thursday evening.

Director Mike Rallings said this class was selected before the pandemic started in March.

Related: Less talk, more action: Memphis activists react to Mayor’s plan for police reform

He said they had to regroup and reconfigure the 23-week police academy to follow CDC guidelines which included social distancing, quarantine and testing.

In Memphis and across the nation, we’ve seen protests against the police and calls to defund the departments.

During this graduation, Rallings told the group of new officers that one single action could have an impact on all officers across the country, not just in Memphis.

FOX13 talked with two of these new recruits about why they wanted to join the force right now, and both of them say they had a passion for serving the community.

Officer Stephen Owens said he sees these possible challenges as opportunities to change how people view law enforcement.

These officers have an additional 40 hours of training before they officially hit the streets.

Rallings said they plan to have another recruitment class next month.