(Memphis) There’s a war of words between Toney Armstrong, the city’s top cop, and Michael Williams, the man in charge of the Memphis Police Association.
This week, those words led to Williams and two other union leaders being reassigned to active police duty.
Now George Little, the chief administrative officer for Mayor A C Wharton’s administration, is weighing in on the dispute.
“The mayor and myself stand behind the director in this decision,” Little said.
Armstrong is accusing Williams of putting out false information about how bad crime is in Memphis. This comes at the same time the police department and city hall say crime is going down.
Little said the police director acted within his scope of authority.
“I think when faced with statements he(Armstrong) felt could not be substantiated and provoked fear on the part of the public and called into question his integrity and his officers, he felt compelled to take action,” Little said.
But a police department source tells WREG this all started when Mike Williams claimed Mayor Wharton was running the police department.
The source said this was when Armstrong pulled the Tact team and replaced the leadership with the mayor’s old bodyguard.
Wharton allegedly wanted Williams disciplined then, but Armstrong wouldn’t do it.
The relationship has been strained, and when Williams publicly questioned the crime stats earlier this week, Armstrong had enough and pulled him and the other union leaders, the source said.
WREG asked if the reassignment violates or weakens a binding agreement between the union and the city.
Little contends this isn’t union busting.
“Today there is still the union leadership and within a prescribed set of rules they can continue to carry out union business, just not as usual. When they’re off duty or after hours or with approved union leave, there are provisions made for that, but it won’t be on the city’s dime,” Little said.
But Memphis City Councilman Harold Collins says not so fast. He wants to make sure a Memorandum of Understanding isn’t being violated.
“We’ve been told these employees and what they do is part of the Memorandum of Understanding. For the (Wharton)administration to pull back into this, I think it’s troubling,” Collins said.
Thomas Malone is head of the Memphis Firefighters Association. He told WREG by phone he’s watching this matter very closely and its impact on other unions.
“I’m keeping a close eye on our fire union. That’s my job, but the bottom line I can say if this were happening to the Fire(association) I would certainly be very, very concerned,” Malone said.
WREG spoke with Mike Williams about the dispute yesterday. We reached out to Director Armstrong today, but he wasn’t available for comment.