(Memphis) A consultants' report critical of Memphis Police and Fire practices and benefits is sparking a war of words with the unions representing the two divisions.
Mike Williams is president of the Memphis Police Association.
"We're not investing in public safety here, we're trying to tear down the public safety. Once again, you can make the numbers say anything you want to say. I would ask the citizens do you feel safer in your community than you did four years ago?," Williams said.
Thomas Malone heads the Memphis Firefighters Association. He was in Orlando, Florida today attending a conference, but told us via YouTube the consultant's report and the administration's support of it is off-base.
"They are not looking to grow their way out of this. They're looking to cut their way out of this. When they cut their way out of this, they`re cutting your public safety. They're putting your life, your home, your family at risk," Malone said.
The PFM Group wrote the report and Mayor A C Wharton's administration is using it as a blueprint for the city's financial future as it deals with what it calls a pension fund facing a large $682 million deficit.
The consultants found workers' benefits to be excessive, including sick leave that requires overtime to other workers. That's also something Councilman Kemp Conrad told WREG yesterday.
The report also recommends a freeze in hiring new police and increase the hiring of lower-paid civilians.
Councilman Myron Lowery says the council should thoroughly do its homework before making a decision on the consultants' recommendations.
"We should be open-minded. We should listen to both sides and deal with only the facts and not emotion. That's the way to make an intelligent decision on this issue," Lowery said.
Still, it's an emotional issue that's likely to become even more heated in the debate over the city's pension fund, benefits and public safety.
"You're going to tell me you want officers to come here, dedicate their lives and fight the crime in one of the most violent cities in the nation? You will have many hitting the door," Williams said.
The Wharton Administration told WREG it will address the report and its recommendations at length with the media Wednesday.