Police Changes Continue Amid Budget Talks

By Bill Dries

With the start of the new year, Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong began a reorganization of the department that changed the boundaries of the city’s nine police precincts, evening out the amount of territory and calls each area handles.

In addition to technology like license plate readers, Memphis Police have seen more recent changes including a realignment of police precinct boundaries that took effect in January.

(Daily News File Photo: Lance Murphey)

It was just the start of an ambitious plan that continues to unfold as Armstrong this week defended before the Memphis City Council budget committee what is the largest division budget in the city.

And the changes would continue over the next five years in the capital improvements projects or construction budget for the department.

What are known as CIP projects are funded differently than the city’s operating budget. The projects are funded with bond money that is paid back by the city over 20 to 30 years depending on the term of the bonds and with one-time state and federal funding as well.

In recent years, city government has limited each year’s total CIP spending across all divisions to around $65 million.

For the fiscal year that starts July 1, the administration’s blueprint for capital spending on police would be $315,000 on precinct renovations that include repaving parking lots and changing out furniture, fixtures and equipment.

Over the next five fiscal years, the capital spending by the city would total $68.6 million.

That includes an $8 million Firestone Station precinct in North Memphis, $8.8 million to build a new Mount Moriah Station, which is 33 years old and another $7.8 million to replace the 1980 part of the Raines Station precinct.

The dollar figures are over several fiscal years with the last parts of the projects completed in the 2018 fiscal year.

The biggest ticket item on the 11-item project list for the Memphis Police Department is a $14.7 million 911 facility.

Beyond the fiscal year that begins in less than two months, the other spending reflected in the multi-year plan is considered subject to change.

For instance, one of the 11 police projects in the published CIP budget is a new traffic precinct slated for fiscal year 2015 at $1.3 million.

Armstrong told Memphis City Council members Tuesday that the project has since been cancelled.

And Armstrong also made a pitch Tuesday to the council for an eventual move of police headquarters out of the Criminal Justice Center, a county government-owned building at 201 Poplar Ave.

The city pays annual rent of $1.4 million to lease two floors in the building that is also home to the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department, Shelby County Jail, Shelby County District Attorney General’s office, county and state criminal courts, City Court, court clerks and the Public Defenders office.

“We just recently had to relocate a lot of our investigators at precincts because of crowding issues,” Armstrong said. “We’ve overstayed our welcome.”

He talked of moving back into the old 1910-era Memphis Police building on the northwest corner of Adams Avenue and North Second Street. The police department moved out of the building when the Criminal Justice Center opened in the late 1970s.

It has been unused but much discussed ever since.

Armstrong is the latest in a long line of police directors who have talked of moving back to the old police building since the mid-1980s.

And Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. Wednesday became the latest mayor since Dick Hackett to talk of such a move as well.

So far, the move is not a dollar figure in the Capital Improvements budget and has some support on the council.

“It pains me to have to pay Shelby County government,” council member Bill Boyd said Tuesday of the lease payments.

Past examinations of a move back to Adams Avenue for the police department usually ended with cost estimates of what it would take to make the building operable again and as secure as a modern police facility would need to be.