Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. said Tuesday, Oct. 29, the decision to shut down the Memphis Police TACT unit for several weeks was made by Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong without any pressure from him.
Wharton bristled at speculation that Armstrong took the unusual step at Wharton’s direction.
“There’s one person running that police department and I’m not going to let anybody degrade the department,” Wharton said when reporters told him Memphis Police Association president Michael Williams had suggested Wharton made the call. “I’ll tell you what you will not find – one thing that said I directed it because it’s just a flat-out lie. Man up, Mike Williams. You are lying. … It’s a lie. It’s a lie. It’s a lie. It is not true.”
Armstrong reassigned three high-ranking members of the unit as he announced Friday, Oct. 25, the unit would stand down for approximately three weeks while an internal investigation is underway into its policies and procedures.
The review comes after an Oct. 15 barricade in which two TACT officers were shot and wounded and the man inside the house died after the house was destroyed by fire after the TACT unit fired gas canisters into the house.
An autopsy report on how Aaron Dumas died is still pending. Police came to the house at 1383 Worthington in South Memphis to arrest Dumas on warrants for attempted murder.
The two officers were shot and wounded during different parts of the siege.
During the stand-down period the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department SWAT team is handling barricade and hostage calls within Memphis.
Meanwhile, the police department is facing criticism for the way uniform officers broke up a party at a South Main Street business last weekend after the Friday Art Trolley Tour. That includes complaints that police tried to stop citizens with iPhone cameras from recording police actions.
Wharton said citizens are free to make complaints to the police Internal Affairs unit.
“I’ve read of the concerns. They bear looking into,” Wharton added, terming reports that police took the iPhones or tried to stop citizens from recording them as “unacceptable.”