Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Council Axes Private Guards at City Hall, MPD

Posted By on Tue, May 3, 2016 at 11:18 AM

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland wants to use armed guards from a private company to secure Memphis City Hall and the new Memphis Police Department (MPD) headquarters but Memphis City Council members axed the plan.

Strickland’s 2017 budget included $650,000 for the new guards, instead of using officers from MPD. Antonio Adams, director of the city’s general services division, said the plan would put those police officers back on the street.

He said the plan was vetted and approved by former MPD director Toney Armstrong and by current interim director Michael Rallings.

But council members beat back at the plan, noting that the mayor has police protection and that they (council members) deserved the same, not “rent-a-cops or flashlight cops,” said council member Berlin Boyd.

The armed guards would have guns, Adams said. Also, the move would not remove the mayor’s detail nor would it remove the council’s officer. It is only the officers at the entrances to the buildings.

“So, everybody’s dead,” said council member Joe Brown. “Am I correct?”

The council defeated a similar move in A C Wharton’s budget last year.

Adams said he’d at least like to keep $400,000 in the budget this year for armed guards at the new MPD headquarters at the former state building at 170 North Main. He said MPD officials have “emphatically stated that they (MPD) will not be armed security at” that building.

The MPD headquarters, Adams said, needed 24-hour security as a whole host of of different people - suspects, victims, and family members - would enter the building at all hours.

Boyd countered that MPD headquarters is also filled with trained, armed police officers.

“They all have guns on their hips,” Boyd said. “I don’t have a gun on my hip. They can have all the security they want.”

Adams repeated the move was approved by MPD officials but Brown said “I don’t buy that,” noting that Armstrong was likely under pressure from Wharton at the time.

In a sprawling statement to help defeat the move, Brown described a new American tension, in which people are angry at government and “are not afraid to shoot guns now” and reminded that a man broke windows at Memphis City Hall recently.

“Around the country, I’ve seen officers shot up at precincts,” Brown said. “I’ve seen elected officials shot in St. Louis. For a few pennies, we’re not going to drop our guard [at City Hall].

"We’re in trouble. The average citizen is angry at anything that happens at City Hall.”

Brown ended his statements by noting that “in reality [MPD] can’t even secure Orange Mound” and that the city council “is going to stay protected, I don’t care what you [Adams], or the mayor or what anybody says.”

While Adams pleaded his case for the funds, council members eventually removed the money from the budget. Councilman Worth Morgan voted against taking the money out of the budget.

The amendment could be changed, however. All of the budget amendments made during the council’s budget review aren’t final until the council approves a final budget, which will probably come some time later in June.

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