Mayor Kincannon tackles police recruitment in first full council meeting

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon led her first full city council meeting Tuesday. In her first official meeting, the new mayor tackled police recruitment efforts at the Knoxville Police Department.

Kincannon said the department has budgeted about 40 more positions than what they can fill with current applicants.

"Police officers are over-taxed, over-worked, and working overtime. That's not a great way to protect public safety," Kincannon said.

Police Chief Eve Thomas said it's a national problem that KPD is also seeing locally. A $40,000 base salary isn't enough to attract applicants even though she said it's comparable with other departments like in Asheville and Chatanooga.

"We're high profile. Everything we do now is video and audiotaped. It's a difficult job. You have to have a passion for community service," Thomas said.

It's a passion the department is having a difficult time tapping into. With a good economy, Kincannon said there are other easier jobs where applicants can make similar money.

The mayor addressed the issue with a resolution Tuesday. It would grant up to $100,000 for market research and re-branding at the department with help from a Knoxville firm.

The resolution passed 8 to 1. Councilwoman Amelia Parker said she disagreed with the proposal.

"I was not convinced that the $100,000 would produce a plan that much stronger than what KPD is already doing," she said. "What we can do to improve our efforts is to take complaints of our current officers seriously so new recruits know they're coming into a supportive and safe working environment."

Thomas said it's not a silver bullet to solving recruitment. She said they also have to look into properly branding their benefits packages to the right demographic and work on making the hiring process quicker and easier.

Thomas said the firm would also work on marketing Knoxville as a prosperous community to live in.

The resolution passed Tuesday night. KPD will work with Robin Easter Design in Knoxville.

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