New Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong was sworn in this morning in a ceremony in the Memphis City Council Chambers at City Hall.
Armstrong, a 22-year-veteran of the MPD, promised to focus on strengthening the relationship between police officers and community members, while continuing the technology-driven policing methods instituted by outgoing director Larry Godwin.
"Toney doesn’t have to deal with what I had to deal with. We weren’t just dealing with crime going up. We had all these other issues to deal with. We had personnel issues. We had folks over here that were civilians and making as much [money] as the chief. We had folks that we didn’t even know what they did. We had promotional issues," Godwin told the Flyer in an exit interview last month. "He doesn’t have any of that. He has a crime plan that’s the best in the country. All he has to do is keep doing what he’s doing."
Armstrong joined the MPD in 1989, after serving three years as an Army Field Artillery Specialist. He was first assigned to the West Precinct (now known as Union Station), and in 1991, he began working undercover. Later, Armstrong was moved into the role of investigator in the Organized Crime Unit and then as a sergeant in the robbery bureau.
He's perhaps best known for his role as supervisor of the homicide unit on A&E's The First 48. In that role, Armstrong worked on the infamous Lester Street Murder case and eventually led the unit to an 87 percent solve rate, the highest its ever seen. In 2008, Armstrong was promoted to the rank of commander of the homicide unit. From there, he went on to the role of colonel of downtown's uniform patrol, deputy chief of uniform patrol, and deputy director. He was named to the top cop role in March, shortly after Godwin announced his retirement.
"I think [Toney's] positioned to sort of go the next step," said Dr. Richard Janikowski, associate professor in the University of Memphis Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice. "The [former] sheriff, Mark [Luttrell], once said, when the house is on fire, that’s what you’ve got to concentrate on, putting the fire out. Then you can start looking at the electrical wiring."