The Commercial Appeal profiles Memphis police director Toney Armstrong, who during his first year as the city’s top top has had to deal with an officer’s slaying; historic flooding and heat; a slowdown in ticket-writing after police officers took a pay cut; and an investigation into the Organized Crime Unit. He’s also launching a new crime-reduction plan. Armstrong’s ascent to the $120,000-a-year police director’s job was never going to be easy. His predecessor, Larry Godwin, was a larger-than-life character who oversaw steep declines in crime and the introduction of data-driven policing, which brought him — and the department — national acclaim.
In his first weeks on the job, Armstrong confronted a near-mutiny by officers loyal to Godwin. At the end of his second week in the director’s seat, Armstrong delivered a two-hour message to the department’s top brass gathered at the Airways Precinct, saying policies instituted by Godwin had created “monsters” inside the department and declaring that he was the “monster killer.” Someone secretly recorded the speech and released parts to the news media. “I think with any change in leadership there’s a period of time where people have to get to know you and get to know your management style,” Armstrong said last week. “It was a little tough for some people, but the officers have done a tremendous job.”