Should MPD Union Leaders Be Paid By You Or The Union?

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

(Memphis) They are the voice of the 2,000 Memphis police officers who make up their membership, but lately that voice is ruffling a lot of feathers.

The Memphis Police Association made headlines for putting up billboards saying the city is not concerned about crime, and it even hosted a job fair where officers could scout for jobs in other cities.

"I work for the members of the police Association who elected me," said MPA President Mike Williams.

He makes no apologies for the approach he's taking to bring attention to issues he says are being ignored, like the city investing millions in city buildings and projects, while cutting benefits to police.

When Williams challenged the crime numbers from the police department, Police Director Toney Armstrong pulled rank and threatened to pull union officers away from the union hall and put them back on the streets.

The union threatened to sue and things went back to normal.

Questions were raised about how much time top union leaders spend actually doing police work.

"I am a police officer. I am on duty right now," said Williams.

Williams told us while you don't see union leaders patrolling the streets day to day, that doesn't mean they aren't doing police work, like responding to officer involved shootings, going to schools and community organizations and managing police benefits for the city.

"There are different facets of police work. Every police officer is not assigned to a police car," said Williams.

Mike Williams, MPA Vice President Essica Littlejohn and Secretary Jeffrey Herbison work from the Union Hall on Jefferson Avenue daily and represent 2,000 officers during hearings, City Council meetings, and events around the city.

"There are those trying to cast doubt on whether citizens get what they pay for, but I am telling you, they get more than they pay for with the services we give," said Williams.

The Memphis Police Union has its own budget made up of the dues paid by its members.

Its 2012 tax filing shows a revenue of $2.3 million, with expenses of $1.9 million.

Though the union leaders work for the MPA, their police salaries are paid by you the tax payer, ranging from $59,000 to $71,000.

Twenty-five union workers also draw a stipend from the MPA, totaling $129,000.

That's on top of city pay, and it's not uncommon.

In Nashville, the Fraternal Order of Police Union leader works full-time at the union, representing about 1,600 officers, and is paid a stipend.

In Little Rock, with a police union of just about 500 members, the union leader serves part-time and spends most of his day working as an officer, but he admits it would be hard running a union four times as large, like Memphis, and not doing it on a full-time basis.

Memphis City Council Member Lee Harris sits on the Public Safety Committee.

He says unions play a vital role, because rank and file officers need representation.

"I think it's a good idea for them to elect someone they have confidence in. I think their interests are very unique. I think sometimes the city takes advantage of them," said Harris.

Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong is a longtime member of the MPA and says he supports the union.

The city's agreement with the union is now entangled in a court battle over the validity of the contract.

"We are waiting on that ruling and when that ruling comes, we will make the determination then on how we continue to utilize the people at the MPA in the same manner that we have or if we re-deploy them to the field," said Armstrong.

The union says it's happened before, leaders were pulled off the job and put back on patrol, but in those cases too, the court returned the union reps back to union hall.

The MPA's lawsuit against the city over the validity of the union contract is set to go before Judge Hardy Mays on May 20, 2014.


  • Hard Truths

    We taxpayers PAY THEM — TO LIE TO US.

    Isn’t Memphis wonderful? And rational?

    The police union is a big part of the police problem in Memphis. They are the backbone and the protectors of the thug elements on the force.

    • Fred

      When a person pays union dues their union HAS to support them just as an insurance company would a policyholder. I can assure you mr. Williams is not always happy about this but it is his job. As for thug cops let’s explore the matter. They haven’t had a raise or cost of living increase in 7 years. Their healthcare rates have doubled during that time and now Wharton wants to strip them of any and all benefits. I’d estimate that would more or less make them about 40% poorer today than 7 years ago with inflation and costs of living. Where do I sign up? (Sarcasm). Do you really believe you’re going to get the Best of the best? You get what you pay for. Kellogg’s cereal workers make 7 dollars an hour more than these cops with free healthcare for life and don’t risk their lives everyday, work weekends, nights, holidays, hot, cold, wet and so on and so on.

      • Hard Truths

        Fair points, Fred.

        I especially want the city to meet ALL its pay and pension obligations. BUT — is thiswhy the cops take out their frustrations on the Memphis public?

        A First World city meets its pension obligations, and we had a Third World mayor for 18 years who betrayed EVERYBODY in this city.

        BREAD AND CIRCUSES! And, “apres moi, le deluge”.

        Not cool. If cops are frustrated, they should not take it out on the taxpaying public. We have a surly police force in Memphis, with a lot of questionable people in uniform.

        There were the criminal waivers, the Herenton CRONY hires, The refusal to hire officers from outside the city limits — where a LOT of the best qualified people reside.

        The financial issues with the police can fairly be laid totally at the doorstep of King Willie and his Bread and Circuses. He’s out of office now, so it’s AC’s headache. Willie’s waste and graft are not fair to AC.

        It was also a bad policy to hire only from within the city limits. It has finally been extended to Shelby County residents, now that King Willie and his cats paw, the corrupt Barbara Swearingen Holt are gone, thank God.

        The police cannot find officers with IQs above the minimum of 84.5, and we just have a bunch of people in uniform who are very sub-par for police officers.. If you’re gonna give someone a gun, a badge, and a state commission, a license to kill and abuse, in effect, then we should be a lot more careful about who gets those jobs.

        The police should have triple-digit IQs, for starters. No one with life and death power over me should come form people who were rejected as cashiers at McDonald’s (no offense to the nice kids who work at McD’s.)

        A lot of people of questionable intelligence, integrity, and communication skills have been hired and the union is protecting their sorry butts. THAT is the problem. There are TOO MANY BAD APPLES in that barrel.

        Memphis does not have a quality police force. And thugs are promoting thugs like them. MPD gives advancement to thug elements, NOT to the college-educated officers who can speak good English. The good cops don’t get promoted, and are leaving in droves. Who can blame them?

        I know this — the BURDEN IS ON THE POLICE to get along with the community, and not the other way around. They strut around like a militarized STREET GANG, relying on intimidation rather than the law. And they protect each other, NOT the public.

        The public is sick of these bad cops.

        The wrong people were hired because of a rogue mayor, and now we have a rogue police force.

  • Dq

    Have you worked for the city? The city is the worst employer I had ever worked for. Threats, retaliation and harassment. Complain about a safety violation, get moved to another job. Betterment of the job.

    The public has no clue. The city causes a need for unions. They promote people who couldn’t hold a job at McDonalds. Then end up getting sued over them, by the workers they screw over. Most of those that sue are not in unions. Most of the labor laws don’t apply to the city. So the union is all they have to get a matter corrected.

  • Hard Truths

    I support unions in generally, far more than I do police unions.

    I agree that lousy management makes unions inevitable and necessary.

    Unions have a proud and VERY honorable role in our nation’s history and its future.

    But police unions … they defend bad behavior that the public wants to condemn, and that police leadership would like to condemn — and FIRE.

    It’s part of a union’s job to fight for the worker, be the worker a good or a poor worker, but when it combines with police’s adversarial stance and role in society, the police union is an especially problematic institution.

    I’m much happier to hear OTHER city employees are unionized, to the extent they are. (I don’t know.)

    But police unions are — a basic conflict in the direction of civilization.

    We cannot trust police not to abuse their power, and their union’s power, to protect the interests of their own, and AGAINST the public.

    • J.J.

      Soo you believe a police officer deserves no representation? They fight crime and risk their life on a daily basis.. i guess they dont deserve what other professions deserve.

      • Hard Truths

        A large number of BAD cops got hired under Herenton — and the union is defending them, and saddling Memphis with a rogue, Third World police force. And by Third World I mean surly thugs of BOTH races.

        It is a BAD bunch this union is defending. The problem isn’t so much the union as the caliber of bad cops they defend. MPD has a deep-rooted personnel problem.

        And the union is making things worse, not better. The union is part of the problem, and is not even acknowledging that the police force needs to put forth SOLUTIONS to all the bad relations in the community that THEY are responsible for.

      • bambam84

        Fight crime and risk their lives? All they do is go after traffic violations and harass victims and witnesses to not report crimes, or change their minds about the fact that they were victims of crimes. And yes, I HAVE personally witnessed both aspects as a civilian.
        Seems the only way they put in any REAL work around here is when they’re on camera (I.e., the news.) THEY pay Union dues. Make that cover the Union chief’s pay. PERIOD.

  • John

    Day is coming when Memphis politics supported by the public”who think “they know best” fail to field a force. 911- “We’re sorry but the number you have dialed is no longer in service”.

  • Bill Geyer

    Seriously Channel 3?? You call this reporting? Why not do the story about the need for the Union because of our employer, OH, I forgot, you are in their pocket.

  • Susan

    I use to love channel 3 news but enough is enough. So tired of the police bashing. Surely Memphis has other news worthy stories. I have a retired higher ranking policeman that lives by me and he is saddened how the department is being presented. He has told me some horrible things that he has had to see and incounter while working 30 years in this crumbling city.I was literallly in tears and just had to give him a hug. He hurts for these officers. There are so many good officers out there who could give their lives for us anyday and this is how we treat them? It makes my heart so heavy these people have families just like us. They have hearts and feel just like us. Don’t slam them because you have gotten a ticket or even locked up because you probably deserved it and just were caught. That is their jobs. That is what they are paid to do. Don’t be mad because they are doing their jobs. Every company has a few bad seeds. Most large police department have police associations or Unions. My thought is who cares. That is not news they have been having these labor organizations for years. WHO CARES……….. If your news station would dig a little deeper you would find police officers here in Memphis make tons less than other big cities and they also have terrible benefits . Big city departments that I googled show alot more incentives than these poor officers are getting around here. We should be thankful we even have some police officers because the way our city is treating them. SHAME ON YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I leave my post as this I will no longer be watching your TMZ type news station anymore. I will watch channel 5 because they know how to report news worthy stories and do not seem to bash our police officers. I have learned tons from my neighbor and all I can say is I will be praying you officers and hope soon our leaders will wake up and see there is a horrible problem here in Memphis and it needs to be fixed ASAP.

    • Hard Truths

      Things would be a lot better if we had cops of even AVERAGE intelligence — and a lot more integrity, and far better communications skills. We’ve got a bunch of street gangbangers for cops.

      The sooner we get a mayor and police director with the cajones to fire the bad cops WHOLESALE — and replace them with the National Guard if necessary — then we start down the path to police reform in Memphis.

      MPD needs a massive change in dynamic, leadership, and should stop tolerating the shoddy, abusive people they have been hiring.


    • Dr. JohnS

      Susan thank you for presenting the other side. I agree with you. Yes there are bad people in every profession or trade – but that does not make them all bad. I would not, could not do the job they do for the little pay they get.

      All the bad mouthing does not help them, it makes matters worse. It is hard enough to do their job without thinking every citizen is out to get him or her. Let’s just face it, we have some a**holes that post negativity on this site every day.

      If they do not like Memphis they can do one of two things; they can work to make it better or they can view Memphis in their rear view mirror as they move out of the city.

      • Hard Truths

        When, in your opinion, will the police give up their license to act like a thug occupying army in our community? Do you think you’re getting decent police services for YOUR tax dollar. I sure as heck don’t.

        WE THE TAXPAYERS need to remind the police who is boss.

  • youbigdummychannel3

    Okay…first off, I would like to say Channel 3 if you are going to report the facts to the public….I would make sure that what you are reporting is true and factual. A patrol officer makes 53,573.52 and a Sgt. makes 59,026.62 a year. Those police association guys and girl work overtime. This overtime is from answering calls you BIG DUMMIES! Get ALL the facts before you start running your mouth off and don’t know what you are talking about as usual. Make sure you are giving the correct salaries before you start giving numbers like we all make that much. Those inflated amounts are WISHFUL THINKING!! To make some of those numbers you would have to work a ton of OT and guess what that means, they are in the squad cars answering calls and writing tickets. Once again you BIG DUMMIES get your facts right!! Believe me, we would all love to make that much but unfortunately, we have to work A LOT of details to make it. That means being away from our loved ones not sitting around on our —– like you are insinuating. Some officers can’t do it…..but many work OT details. Believe me, the association folks are busy handling officer hearings, getting tons of calls from officers and citizens, city council meetings, insurance claims, pension issues, life insurance issues, helping the community by giving OUR MONEY that WE give into our Association to still help our community that we love even though we are treated like we are just replaceable if we get killed or hurt and it’s no big deal it is just OUR job. Just to name some of the things these guys do on a daily basis. Every time I have been to the association they are non-stop doing stuff. Not to mention the call outs these poor officers have to go to. Responding to police involved shootings all the time because these thugs have no respect for law enforcement. Our association is no different from other agencies who have them. The police association gives a lot to the city and gives money to the program COPS. This is not their program it is a Memphis Police Department program but we give because we have hearts and do want to help our community that we work in. So, yes the Association does more than just “represent bad cops”……We are not all bad. Yes, we have had a few that have turned to the other side but that does not represent the whole department. The Association is more than representing officers….people get involved and ask them questions and your officers questions to find out things instead of automatically assuming the worst about us. Thankfully, we do have citizens like Susan who care about us and we need more like her. This city needs help and needs it fast. Just like myself, I have five years on but am looking into other agencies and cities who love and respect their police and their service. I moved to Memphis and started working at MPD for benefits that were offered to me. Now you are trying to take away those benefits and have already taken my pay once. Guess What ——-Memphis Police Department DOES NOT OFFER ANYTHING NOW. Officers are leaving in numbers because of better police incentives at other departments and soon this town will be left with nothing. Officers are going where the best money is and the better benefits. So, all I can say is lock them doors Memphis because it is going to get worse and hopefully, you will have an officer who will be in service to come help you if there are any left here. You can THANK your Mayor and City Council for ruining the morale and department because they think we are over complement and have too many officers. Hopefully, I can say GOOD RIDDANCE to this ungrateful city soon……………

  • Christine

    I do not have a problem with police officers having union representation. Before any one bad mouth unions, they need to research and find out why union were formed. I do not have any problems with the Memphis pd. When I learned that I was a victim of identity theft, the MPD handled my case in a timely manner. Police officers are under paid. They put their lives on the line every day. I am very thankful for their service. You can not blame the whole police department when a police officer commits a crime. We live in a time where people do not think for themselves. Also because politicians want to keep us divided so that they can use our tax dollars to make the rich richer. Some of you may not know it, there are some individuals in Congress that have a criminal past. Do some background research on Darrel Issa and you would be amazed at what you may find.

    • Hard Truths

      True about Daniel Issa’s criminal record.

      True, also, about a lot of Memphis cops with criminal records. This should not be tolerated. Nor borderline illiterates and psychopath cops.

  • Hard Truths

    This is a bad union that defends a VERY bad police force. There are TOO MANY rotten apples in this barrel. I believe, too, that the union eggs cops on with their BAD attitude toward the public. This particular union is a cancer.

    Pro-union prosecutors put Jimmy Hoffa in prison.

    A corrupt union is not worthy of praise just for being a union.

    How many former heads of MPA have been convicted of crimes? Robbing their own members, I believe.

    The last several, consecutively, right?

Comments are closed.