Police union: Billboards are 'part of series, more to come'

Billboard that appears to have started the feud between MPA and Strickland (Source: WMC Action News 5)
Billboard that appears to have started the feud between MPA and Strickland (Source: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The Memphis Police Association said the claims made by Mayor Jim Strickland are not true.

"It is easy to criticize without offering solutions and the leadership of the Memphis Police Association has not been offering any solutions," Strickland said.

During a press conference Wednesday afternoon, the MPA said Strickland's claims that the MPA have not provided solutions and only complaints "simply is a lie."

The union's public relations committee recently put up billboards that Strickland said did nothing to help make Memphis a better place.

Matt Cunningham, leader of negotiations for the MPA, said the sacrifices made by police officers and their spouses over the last several years has saved the city millions of dollars.

Citing sacrifices such as pay cuts, taking away healthcare benefits, and cutting pension plans, Cunningham said the city is asking officers to risk their lives and prevent crime but is not giving anything back.

"We're the people fighting and dying to keep the peace in this city," Cunningham said. "The city's simply going to have to make the second most dangerous city in the country a better place to work."

Cunningham said Strickland is asking the police officers to do more than just serve and protect.

"The mayor wants us to do his job and prepare the budget," Cunningham said.

Memphis Police Association president Mike Williams said the billboards that have recently been put up are part of a series of billboards.

"We've done a series of billboards. This is not the first billboard we've done," Williams said. "There is more coming, so please stay tuned."

But, he promises it will not be the last as well.

Despite Strickland's claim of working to put more officers on the streets, the union said Strickland is part of the problem.

"I understand people that want to say 'he's trying' but you also need to understand he was part of the mechanism," Williams said.

They pointed out that Strickland proposed the pay cut to officers and was on the City Council when pensions for officers were cut.

"We're losing way more rapidly than we're gaining," Williams said.

He said despite the recruitment campaign by the mayor's office to get more officers, not everyone applying to be an officer will be qualified and the classes are not graduating enough people to replace those leaving.

The MPA said healthcare benefits is the primary thing they want restored.

"Retirees are quite literally dying. They can't afford to pay their grocery bill or their healthcare," Cunningham said.

"I think they're (city) playing a dangerous game. When you continually push, and push, and push and you have their backs against the wall, they're going to have to eventually do something," Williams said.

Members of the MPA said they are wanting to hear Strickland provide his solution and plans to maintaining officers and decreasing crime during the State of the City address Thursday, but they said they are expecting Strickland not to provide solutions and continue using "the blame game."

Strickland responded to the claims of the MPA following the press conference.

"We have some of the best officers in the country. The police department is second to none," Strickland said. "These men and women do put their lives on the line. My point earlier was that the association has really never brought forth a solution to the problems we face."

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