In an interview with FOX13 News Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong said he will not step down from the police force after what some are calling an embarrassing press conference Tuesday by Mayor A C Wharton in the wake of the latest officer-involved shooting.
"I am not stepping down I am still the director of the police department," says Armstrong. "I don't think we're in an unacceptable state, I think we've had some isolated incidents that put us in negative light and overshadowed all the great officers we have on this job."
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But the question remains is the honeymoon really over between Mayor Wharton and Police director Armstrong?
A day after labeling the operations of Armstrong's department as "unacceptable," Mayor Wharton on Wednesday asserted he still has complete faith in the 45-year old chief.
Nine a.m. on a Wednesday is not usually regarded as a time for a faith-based prayer vigil. But, with turmoil and discontent quietly reaching a boiling point inside Memphis city hall, a group of clergy sought to bring a healing message as salve for a perceived growing rift between Mayor Wharton and his embattled police director.
"I realize that our city hall has real challenges like any other metropolitan city," said Donald Johnson, a Memphis pastor. "Our mayor and our director, they just need our support."
The appearance of a dozen clergy members was but one act in an intriguing political play which unfolded as if it were choreographed by Armstrong and/or his supporters. Actually, the curtain raiser was a Tuesday news conference in which Wharton tongue-lashed recent developments inside Armstrong's department as being "unacceptable" and in need of outside scrutiny to analyze it's shortcomings in recruitment, accountability and training in ethical standards.
An obviously humiliated Armstrong could only really "parrot" his boss' undercutting remark.
"I'm not passing judgment," Mayor Wharton said. "But, obviously something isn't working correctly. So, it's not a matter of frustration. It's just an objective statement."
"It's disappointing to me for the mayor to perceive the department in an unacceptable state," Police Director Armstrong added.
However, as Armstrong met with Mayor Wharton and Chief Administrative Officer George Little on Wednesday, the drum beats of support for the director and the criticism of Wharton's words and actions, both began to loudly resonate.
The drama level rose during a news conference held at police association headquarters in which it was strongly hinted a reportedly now angered Armstrong might turn in his badge as the city's top cop.
"I think he is kind of teetering on whether he wants to keep this job or not," said Michael Williams, Memphis Police Association. "Because he has not been allowed to perform the job without city administration always having their hand in it. Allow the director, with hands off, the ability to be able to run this department without interference from those that don't know how to fight crime."
A similar refrain was echoed by fervent Armstrong supporter City Councilwoman Janis Fullilove, who managed to put a more sinister spin on Mayor Wharton's true intentions.
"Some kind of get-up to get rid of Director Armstrong and I'll tell you one thing, if that happens it's going to be hell to pay the captain," she said.
But as our faith-based friends always tell us in city politics as in life, in all probability these things too shall pass.
"Just like in any family there comes times of dissent and disagreement," did Rev. Frank White, Bloomfield Baptist Church pastor. "My wife and I we fell out yesterday. But, we alright this morning. So, those things happen."
FOX13 News reporters Bofta Yimam, Tealy Devereaux and Les Smith contributed to this report.
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