So who knew retiring Memphis police director Larry Godwin was such a raconteur?
Well, maybe former mayor Willie Herenton, who appointed Godwin from the ranks in 2004, and beyond doubt current mayor A C Wharton, who strove his mightiest to keep Godwin on beyond the mandatory retirement this year that, for all practical purposes, was dictated by Godwin's decision in 2008 to enroll in the department's Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP).
Once in DROP, Godwin could not convince some skeptics on the city council that he deserved to be exempted from the plan's mandatory stop date, which will occur next month. Nor could Wharton. So, as they say (and not for the first time), Memphis' loss was Nashville's gain. The director was snatched up to serve as deputy director of state Safety and Homeland Security by that department's director, Bill Gibbons, himself a Memphis émigré, as the longtime district attorney general in these parts.
We all knew Godwin's admirable on-the-job achievements — notably, a 34 percent drop in the incidence of serious crime since 2006. That startling statistic, the updated version of which Godwin revealed Tuesday to members of the Memphis Rotary Club, was due chiefly to the Operation Blue C.R.U.S.H. (Crime Reduction Utilizing Statistical History) instituted by Godwin and enabled by hard research information provided by Professor Richard Janikowski of the University of Memphis. As Godwin explained to the Rotarians, crime control under that program has largely been a matter of putting the blue uniforms where the crime is occurring. (And not just the blue uniforms; Godwin takes enormous pride in having put together an extensive nexus of undercover officers capable of infiltrating criminal enterprises.)
What most of us hadn't known (and the Rotarians, among other groups, have found out as Godwin has been going about saying his goodbyes) was how compelling a speaker Godwin is. A raconteur, as we said. The man has serious political gifts, and perhaps it is that fact which allowed Godwin to escape the fickle Herenton's habit of appointing a director-of-the-month.
Godwin was one of a handful of presenters invited to speak at a recent international security conference held in Israel, and as he told the Rotarians a story of how he was required to sweat a prepared text down from an hour to one of six minutes total, it was hard to imagine how he achieved such a feat. This is a man who clearly loves to speak of the achievements he is leaving behind, which, besides Blue C.R.U.S.H. itself, include the creation of a state-of-the-art Real Time Crime Center.
It may well be that newly designated police director Toney Armstrong, who was promoted from the ranks, as Godwin was before him and who to the public is an unknown quantity as his predecessor was, will achieve equally impressive results. He has a hard act to follow, however.
We wish both Godwin and Armstrong good luck in their new endeavors.