MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Memphis Police Association President Mike Williams told WREG-TV he knows of retired police officers who have taken their own lives over the pending revocation of their healthcare stipend.
"We got retirees that have already committed suicide over this. We got retirees that are not going to be able to get healthcare over this," said Williams to Marybeth Conley and Alex Coleman during Live at 9.
He said at least one worker committed suicide over city benefits being cut.
We know about the anger and the marches around city hall, but suicide?
Williams won't reveal the retired officer's name, but he says it happened, "The individual's wife had major surgery and he didn't know how he was gonna be able to take care of his wife. So it stressed him out to the point whereas he did what he did."
Williams says the retired patrolman in his 40s thought his wife would be better off if he was gone because she could at least get his insurance.
Williams predicted there will be more, "Even prior to this happening, we had told them that people were going to die because of this. A lot of people are not going to be able to afford the amount of money they are asking for."
A Memphis Police Department spokesperson tells us she is not aware of the retiree suicide.
Williams also repeated his claim that crime is up in Memphis, but the police department sent us stats showing year-to-year crime is down almost 4% and month-to-month 11%.
As of Monday afternoon, the number of MPD officers who have called in sick is more than 500.
Williams said officers feel betrayed by changes in healthcare for current and retired city employees, "You can't ask a police officer to run into an active shooter situation and get shot and say, 'We want you to do that, but we're not going to give you healthcare on the back end.'."
Administrators say officers are calling in sick to protest the changes and they are having to ask the Shelby County Sheriff's Office for help patrolling streets.
Fifty sheriff's deputies and reserves assisted police Saturday night and 37 Sunday night.
"We are constantly in contact with Director Armstrong and we will continue to do all we can to support in order to keep this community, his officers and our officers safe," says Shelby County Sheriff Bill Oldham.
The changes affect all city employees, but police and fire unions have been the most vocal.
“We have a responsibility to provide public safety,” said Director Toney Armstrong Sunday. “It has been challenging to fill all of our staffing levels, but at this point, no citizens are at risk.”
Williams said he understood why people are concerned about the sick calls and does not want to put anyone in danger, "I got kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, uncles, aunts who live in this city and I want no harm to come to them. At the same time, I want no harm to those guys that you want to go out and get those criminals either."