Director Armstrong Weighs In On Benefit Cuts - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Director Armstrong Weighs In On Benefit Cuts

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    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) - Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong, a key member of the Wharton administration, said he doesn't support the changes to retiree health care.

He said he hopes the city can find another way to save money and he warned he's losing officers much faster than he can replace them.

MORE: Group Upset With Memphis Budget Creates Facebook Page

The good news for MPD is they'll soon have a new recruit class of 90 officers entering the police academy. The bad, around 165 officers have retired or left the force this year.

Add up the numbers and it shows officers are fleeing the department faster than they can be replaced.
 
MORE: Wharton Threatened Via Social Media Over Budget

"We're having to really, really reach deep to try to manage, you know, through the crisis," the police director said Friday.

Director Armstrong said morale is low among his fellow officers. They're frustrated with the council's decision to cut the city's contribution to retiree health care, and upcoming plans to shift younger officers out of the pension and into a new 401k-style retirement plan.

MORE: City Unions Mull Lawsuit Over 2015 Budget Approval Cuts
MORE: Memphis City Council Approves 2015 Budget


"It's my desire that there's another way that funding can be found that we can continue to give, not only our officers that we have here now, but the officers that have retired the benefits they worked for," Director Armstrong said.

The police director said Friday it's been a tough few years for the department. Officers were forced to take a paycut. The council restored it in 2013, but the unions are still fighting for back pay.
 
As well, the department has been asked to do more with less.

"More than anything I think it's time for council to recognize that and simply say 'thank you,' you know?," Director Armstrong said. "We appreciate everything that you've done. Certainly you hadn't had all the support, all the resources that you've needed at times when you felt like that you needed them, and I think it's just time for somebody to recognize and say 'thank you.'"

While officers are unhappy with the budget situation Director Armstrong said they'll continue to serve the city.

"At the end of the day my message is that we, we took an oath that we're responsible for public safety, and regardless of what happens on this end there won't be a citizen that should suffer for that," he said.

Director Armstrong said many senior officers and commanders are leaving the police force because of the city's budget situation. For example, on Friday one of the city's two homicide supervisors decided to retire.

Director Armstrong said it's tough to replace these high level officers, and it's a chess game he's moving the pieces. But even with the challenges, Director Armstrong said crime is still down by about four percent.

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