Armstrong vs. Williams; 2 men doing different things - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Armstrong vs. Williams; 2 men doing different things

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

They  were once both boots on the street as Memphis Police patrol officers. But three years ago Toney Armstrong and Mike Williams both ascended to leadership roles.

Their history shows at times those roles have placed them on a collision course.

MORE: MPA union files grievance against Armstrong's actions
MORE: MPD officers assigned to MPA sent back to home precincts

If both Williams, union president of the Memphis Police Association, and Armstrong, Memphis Police Director, were artists I bet you could tell the difference in what they would paint.

Armstrong's work would probably highlight the primary colors, with neat lines and basic themes. Williams would probably be broad and wild colorful strokes using up the entire canvas.

Two men. Two different ways of doing things.

April 2011. Call it happenstance. For in the same week, just three days apart, the torch of leadership passed hands at both the Memphis Police Department and the Memphis Police Association. Armstrong was the popular choice for police director after the retirement of the highly criticized Larry Godwin.

In replacing the ineffectual J.D. Sewell at MPA, it didn't take long for Williams to establish himself as an outspoken critic of the administration of Mayor A C Wharton. But, having both come up through the police ranks, Williams' vehemently came to the defense of the embattled director, when in the following year, Armstrong's managerial handling of the department came under public fire from Mayor Wharton for a series of "bad apple cop" incidents.

"Not passing judgment, but, obviously something isn't working correctly," Director Armstrong said in 2012. "It's disappointing to me for the mayor to perceive this department as being in an unacceptable state."

"Allow this director with hands off, the ability to be able to run this department without the interference from those who don't know how to fight crime," Williams also said in 2012.

As tensions accelerated between the police and fire unions and city hall over restoring a 4.6-percent pay cut reduction in 2012, so too did the tactics employed by the Williams-led MPA. Open demonstrations of dissent had officers and their families taking their case to the streets. If that wasn't enough, in April 2013, a controversial billboard warning visitors of entering the city at their own risk, left Wharton and council members seething.

"I think it's self-centered," Mayor Wharton said in 2013. "I think it's selfish. I think it has no place in our city."

"It's geared toward the city's leadership and how they are threatening the employees and how they're treating the citizens," Williams said.

Even with the eventual restoration of the city employee pay cuts, Williams criticism of city hall didn't abate and only seemed to grow bolder and angrier. All the while Armstrong managed to avoid the verbal fray. That was until Williams' chose to more than intimate Wharton was behind a decision by Armstrong to take the vaunted TACT squad off the street for weeks after a search warrant procedure ended up with two officers shot and a suspect dead.

Williams asserted the move was political. A grim-faced Armstrong decided it was time to draw a prophetic line in the sand with his fellow officer.

"He speaks for the MPA and the body that he represents," Armstrong said in 2013. "I feel like that the comments that he made yesterday were reckless. It causes a great divide. Because there are those who are going to support him and there's going to be people who support my administration as well."

And now that "great divide" in all probability has grown wider.

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