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MPA unhappy with details surrounding $6.1 grant for Memphis police

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The Memphis Police Association responded to the city's announcement this week of $6.1 million to recruit and retain police officers.

That money includes bonuses for officers who refer someone to the academy once that person graduates.

It also provides retention bonuses for veteran officers who agree to stay with the department and raises for all officers.

The money comes from the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission.

On Tuesday, members of the MPA said they’re happy to see the city moving in the right direction, but said the way they’re going about it is wrong.

Union leaders said the city's press conference on Monday was the first they heard about the $6.1 million dollar grant and said they should've been a part of the negotiating when it began nine months ago.

MPA members also said the money needs to go to reinstating healthcare benefits for officers’ spouses and retirees, rather than one-time bonuses if the city wants officers to stay.

However, the city said those benefits would require a hefty property tax increase and this is just a piece of many improvements.

City spokespeople also said the grant has to go specifically to retention and recruitment purposes.

MPA wants the city to ask them what needs to be done, rather than telling them, because they said they’re the ones that know the community best and where the problems are.

“The general consensus from officers we’ve talked to in response to the mayor’s proposal yesterday is this is a slap in the face, this is a punch in the gut and we don’t want your scraps," said MPA Vice President Essica Littlejohn. "Do what’s right. It’s easy. Just do what’s right.”

The union also threatened legal action for the way the grant was handled outside the union contract negotiation process, but the city said they’ve stayed within all the rules of with handling this grant.

The city released the following statement in response:

“We’ve spent countless hours listening to officers and the MPA to learn their concerns. What was announced Monday is one of the many steps we’ve taken in the past year in response to that feedback. We’re proud of what we’ve implemented and we’re moving forward.”

Also, a few things you should know:
· What we announced Monday was not outside the rules of the negotiation process.
· It was referenced that we did not make an economic offer in negotiations today. However, we never got to the point in negotiations where that takes place. We must first agree on ground rules. MPA brought several changes to the ground rules to the negotiations and we were not able to reach an agreement to the ground rules today.
· The $6.1 million grant is a one-time, four-year grant that can only be used for retention and recruitment purposes. It would cost $7 million plus the cost of claims annually to remove the spousal carveout (which was specifically referenced.)
· A $25 million development was referenced. This is likely a reference to the Tourism Development Zone sales tax proceeds that would otherwise go to the state, and is essential to enable the major expansion of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. This money cannot be used for general fund expenses.
· Restoring health care benefits to 2014 levels would require a 35 to 50-cent property tax increase. The health care changes were made so that we could fully fund our pension.