MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Police union leaders said if concerns over the city's pension problems are not fixed, Memphis police officers could soon be leaving the department in droves.
In spite of Mayor Strickland saying it is his top priority to decrease the gap of the more than 400 officers, the department is currently suffering; there are grumblings that number could go even higher.
It all comes down to pensions and benefits.
"It's just really, I think, a crisis at this point with all the violence," MPD supporter Judy Bogan said.
Bogan said while Memphis is on a record pace for homicides so far this year, something must change in order to stop the bleeding on the streets as well as in the police department's numbers.
"We really need to do something to come together as a community, or leadership, or something," Bogan said.
Memphis Police Association President Mike Williams said he only recently heard about the rumored mass exodus of police officers. However, he said he does know officers are talking about leaving the department.
"I didn't hear about this mass exodus until the other day. I know there are officers contemplating leaving," Williams said.
Williams said officers feel it is not worth putting their lives on the line for what they are receiving in return.
"There has been so many hits to officers' benefits that they're feeling it's not really worth being in the second most violent city in America per capita," Williams said.
A spokesperson for Mayor Strickland's office said the mayor doesn't want to comment on rumors, but said retaining officers is still one of his top priorities. The spokesperson said it is something Mayor Strickland and Interim Police Director Mike Rallings are committed to.
"The reason I find it funny is because everybody tap dances around the real solution. It's simple: give them the benefits back," Williams said.
Funding that so-called simple solution is the not-so-simple part, though.
However, Bogan said there is too much at stake now.
"I hope that the mayor and the city council really come together to find a solution to this problem," Bogan said.
The spokesperson for the mayor also said Strickland will be announcing more details on efforts to retain and recruit officers in the next 30 to 60 days.