Memphis Fire And Police Unions Sound Off On Critical Report

(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.

15 comments

  • Hugh G. Rection

    Public safety became an issue the minute unions were formed. They allow substandard performance to become the norm. No one can be held accountable without union intervention. Unions are not social clubs! They are in business to make money!

    • mark

      How do you figure that unions are the cause, the unions are for the PEOPLE of this city, if you let the city cut public safety IT WILL impact you as a citizen, yes it might be true that the unions are trying to save jobs BUT the city is at a point that any more cuts WILL affect not just the employees that they lay off but the citizens and visitors to this city, remember, a decrease in public safety WILL cause an increase in BAD things happening

  • Brian

    Unions are sometimes a neseccary evil for employees. Of it where not for the police and fire unions fighting for the men and women that put there life son the line everyday, the city would have already taken everything they could from them. Leaving them to not only have to deal the the extreme conditions and stress of the job but now the distractions and stress of trying to figure out how to provide the necessities for there families. This is where the union comes in to stand up for the employees and make sure the get what they deserve and what was promised. I get so tired of people making the comment that they don’t care about what the fire and police have to deal with, because they knew what they signed up for. Yes they did know and also what was promised to them when the were hired. Nothing like tell an employee what benefits you are entitled to then once you dedicate everything to being a model employee they take it from you. How is this city supposed to hire quality and trustworthy employees with this kind of practice. With a corrupt government comes corrupt employees. So let’s set the example of what a quality city is and make sure you are providing quality service.

  • Hard Truths

    The unfunded pension situation needs fixing. So do the over-generous fringe benefits. And we need to hire higher-caliber people for public safety jobs and pay them better.

    • Steve Ball

      The city is preying on fears and using terms that most of the citizens don’t really understand. You may understand what an unfunded liability is, but for those that don’t, simply stated, means that if every city employee retired today, the pension fund ‘might not’ be able to pay out for 30 years.

      The city also doesn’t want you to know that the pension fund EARNED over $209 million last year! A fully funded city pension fund would be $2.5 billion….it is sitting just under $2.2 billion right now (public record…check it!)! WAIT! That would mean that the mayor’s statement about the shortfall being almost $700 million is wrong and the union’s assessment of just over $300 million is right!?! Let’s see….2.5 billion minus 2.2 billion equals (it’s ok, you can say it) 0.3 billion or 300 million! A little while back, when the unions said that cutting public safety would be dangerous, the city accused them of ‘fear-mongering’….Funny- Who’s doing the fear-mongering now!?!

      The city’s recommended (NOT mandated) pension contribution is 6% of payroll. Until a few years ago, they paid 5%. For clarification, if there was no pension, the city would be REQUIRED to contribute 6.2% to Social Security, so the city is actually saving money. Most cities this size contribute upwards of 12.3% to pension funding! I’d say the City of Memphis is getting on helluva deal and needs to stop squandering its resources, keep its citizens safe, and for Pete’s sake, STOP spending taxpayer dollars on projects that line politician’s pockets like Auto Zone Park (Shea Flinn- Flinn Broadcasting), Sears Crosstown renovation (Kemp Conrad- President & Chief Manager at Cushman & Wakefield – Commercial Advisors Asset Services, LLC), among others!

  • Christine

    It is a shame that we have money to buy Auto Zone Park and money to develop the fairgrounds, but the local governments want to cut the pay of the firemen and local police. The problem is not government workers but the free ride that corporations receive. If these pilot programs are so beneficial, then why do city services. Police and firemen put their lives on the line every day. If any of you have known someone in law enforce to get killed in the line of duty. A state trooper that I knew was killed during a traffic stop. P.S. for those who may assume that the killer was black, he wad white. People don’t let the media brainwash you into thinking that your fellow citizens are the problem. I would rather my tax dollars be spent on Americans than to give our money to that nut Karzai in Afghanastan. American soldiers have been killed by people they were trying to train and no one is talking about that.

  • Eddie Heath

    Do the police really protect you? That the question. Are they not there after the fact? Get real people, the police is not there to protect you/me. Its time to get this citys business in order, or there will be no need for this city to have police. Memphis will be destroyed, just like Detroit

    • jerry

      The recent past has shown MPD officers arrested, breaking the law, on a weekly basis. If they want support from the community, they must “police” their own first. Right now, they should cut, cut, cut and clean up their own department – get finances in order, and dismiss all sub-standard employees/officers. Currently, the salaries for these departments exceed those averages of other, similar departments around the country. Step up and fix internal problems, or step down.

  • Christine

    Yes law enforcement does provide an essential service. We know that they can not prevent all criminal acts. The reason that the crime in Memphis is that the District Attorney’s Office cut sweet deals with the criminals. Law enforcement arrest them and the courts let them go free.

  • ATENCHUNPLEEZ

    Now wait a minute. Four thugs robbed Pizza Hut and Mpd caught them. The man who killed the guy on Barron the other day was arrested by Mpd. And that idiot robbed Kay Jewelers and Mpd caught them too. Mpd doesnt catch every criminal, but they get A LOT OF MURDERERS AND THIEVES off the streets or Memphis would be unbearable. Now if they do a poor job with the officers they have, I’m not teying to find out HOW BAD CAN IT BE HERE WITH HARDLY ANY POLICE AROUND. They need plenty of police to catch criminals in and out of thise uniforms.

  • ATENCHUNPLEEZ

    There have been several critical fires already this year that the Fire Department has handled. How many lives may be lost with less fire fighters maybe what mayor wharton wants to find out, but most people do not. Memphis please get your priorities straight. Its bad enough here already folks.

    • Eddie Heath

      Nothing going to save Memphis, its gone to far down the liberal path. you cannot spend you way out of the trouble this city is in, Can you say Detroit! New police director, new fire director, new mayor, no union, That what the city needs. If you don’t like your pay leave, taxpayer cannot afford you any longer..

  • Bob Graham

    Ask the City why the pensions are underfunded and why the city insurance is underfunded, the reason is because while times were good and pension money was making money, the city put their share of pension money and insurance money into other projects.
    The city created this problem and now city employees and retirees are having to take the blunt of the blow.
    I strongly suggest that people read more than the Commercial Appeal and listen to more than local news. Tennessee law enforcement is understaffed in this state. The citizens of Memphis will wake up one day and realize that law enforcement and fire protection have been reduced to the equivalent to a reserve police department and a voluntary fire department.
    You get what you elect. And as far as the local news agencies, I can remember when all of you did real investigative reporting and not just what the administration gives you to read on air or print.

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