- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 9, 2016

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - A national search found that Memphis Police Department’s newly appointed director Michael Rallings is the “most qualified candidate in the entire country” to lead the force, Memphis’ mayor said.

Mayor Jim Strickland held a news conference Monday to announce the formal appointment of Rallings, who had been serving as interim police director since February, news outlets reported. The appointment ends a controversial national search that netted five other finalists but came with a $40,000 price tag.

“I wanted to be able to look the citizens in the eye and say I got the best possible director,” Strickland said, defending the expense. “And how could we do that without a national search?”

Rallings was credited with peacefully ending a Black Lives Matter protest in July that shut the Hernando DeSoto Bridge for hours. His handling of the situation prompted the City Council and the local chapter of the NAACP l to call for his immediate hiring.

At the news conference, Rallings thanked the public for its “outpouring of support,” The Commercial Appeal reported ( https://bit.ly/2aWFBXn ).

The city is currently experiencing a higher-than-normal violent crime rate that includes 133 homicides this year.

“I’ve felt your love, I’ve felt your pain. I’m here for you,” he told the public.

Rallings has been with the department since he joined the police academy in 1990.

If the City Council confirms his appointment, as expected, Rallings’ salary will likely increase to $219,000 from $150,000. The council has already approved a resolution calling for Rallings’ hire.

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