Memphis police officials concerned about losing officers

(WMC-TV) - Memphis Police Association President Michael Williams said he is worried that the city is losing officers.

With a $31 million budget shortfall in 2013, Williams is concerned the problem will only compound.

"We don't have the same amount of officers that we had last year," said Williams.

Williams is worried about the impact of the tight budget on the number of officers patrolling Memphis streets.

"In cutting the police budget, they weren't able to fund new classes," he said.

The last academy to add officers to the Memphis police force graduated in May of 2011.

"The funded (officers) for 2013 is lower than it was for 2012," said Williams.

In 2012, the city funded 3,141.  According to the proposed 2013 budget, the city anticipates funding 2,978, down 163 officers.

"We haven't had a class now to start in over a year, so we're not adding police officers to the department, whereas we're losing," said Williams.

In an interview last Monday, Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong said fewer officers means a delay in the plan to realign precincts.

"We're not ready to move forward with that right now," said Armstrong.  "I haven't been able to get the ... recruit classes that we had anticipated."

That has not stopped the director from planning the realignment.

"Until we can get our complement a little bit better stabilized, we're still preparing for it, but we're not ready to push the button and go forward on that," said Armstrong.

The union president said some officers have taken jobs elsewhere, others are cycling out of attrition, and others are retiring.

Despite the financial challenges, the police director is intent on keeping the community safe.

"I'm hoping that as I have been blessed, as the good Lord has blessed me, that I can in turn be a blessing to this community," said Armstrong.

Saturday, the City of Memphis issued the following statement:

"The police budget has gone up by $10 million in the last year.  That demonstrates the administration's dedication to public safety.  We are not laying off officers, but we have had to resort to delaying police classes during these tight times.  This is because police and fire officials alone make up over 75 percent of all city employees."

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