Grab a seat and listen. Thomas Malone of the Memphis Firefighters Association has a story. “I am a taxpayer,” he says, “And I know one damn thing for sure. I was in a wreck on Monday night. And it took more than an hour for the police to get there because they didn’t have anybody. And the officer came up and apologized. I said ‘You got the right guy here, pal. I understand what you’re going through”
Thomas Malone knows that police need about 5-hundred more officers to be fully staffed. He also will tell you that firefighters are continuing to leave the Memphis Fire Department and while they aren’t leaving at the same rate”They’re still going,” says Malone.
Malone is the only person involved with contract negotiations for police or fire that remembers the chaos that erupted in Memphis during the 1978 fire and police strike.He does not want to see anything like that happen again. He does not like that officials are offering bonuses to keep overworked police on the force.
Malone says they are trying to drive a wedge between police and fire.
“People are throwing money at them (police),” he says, ” and all of those crime scenes. There’s one thing that’s still consistent…and that’s those big red fire trucks and ambulances on every scene.”
Malone says the Memphis Fire Department is the second busiest in the country, behind Detroit. He says the Memphis department is probably averaging about four fires a day. Memphis has fewer people working in the department than they did twenty years ago. Which is why they have no trouble getting jobs in other departments which offer better health insurance and pension benefits.
This city could do the same, Malone says.”It’s about priorities. It’s not about lack of money.”
Mike Williams with the Memphis Police Association says the same thing. His group calls the bonus plan, aimed at attracting new officers and keeping old ones, “A slap in the face a punch in the gut and we don’t want your scraps.”
Williams says “Hey, don’t get me wrong. I mean…thank you. We appreciate that you finally understand that there is a problem.”