Mike Williams retiring as Memphis police union leader, taking a job with General Sessions Court Clerk
Longtime Memphis Police Association President Mike Williams is leaving the role and his job at MPD to serve as chief administrative officer for General Sessions Court Clerk-Elect Joe Brown.
Williams, 60, who is retiring from MPD, started the new role this week.
He joined the police department in 1999 as a patrolman and was elected head of MPA in 2010.
“At the time I ran, I felt that I could take the police association in a new direction,” Williams said. “I think it needed an infusion of new blood, new vision, and someone who could represent the membership in the community as well. And also, be reflective of the changing makeup of the police department, which was predominately African American.”
During his tenure as MPA president, Williams has been a fierce defender of police officers and law enforcement.
In 2013, to protest low salaries and inadequate benefits, Williams and the union put up billboards along the interstate that read “Danger: Enter At Your Own Risk, this city does not support public safety.”
In June of this year, he joined other law enforcement at a rally in East Memphis to speak out against police brutality and to call for unity in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minnesota, which sparked protests and calls for reform nationwide.
Williams said he doesn’t agree with defunding the police department but does think the city’s budget is not distributed equitably to address community needs. The $711 million budget allocates $282 million, or 39.8%, for police services.
MPA and Memphis Fire union members fought to get a referendum on the ballot last year to restore benefits for public safety employees. Voters approved a half-cent sales tax hike. All city employee benefits were cut in 2014.
“That’s definitely a highlight,” Williams said of the referendum. “We were able to get officers’ benefits restored, including insurance restored for the retirees.
“And I think most notable for us is that we’ve been able to allow officers to work in the community with their special interest when it comes to football teams, basketball teams, working with the youth. We call that juvenile abatement. I love that more than anything, helping restore the faith of the community in the police.”
Williams is a Memphis native, growing up in North Memphis. After graduating from Manassas High School in 1978, he joined the U.S. Army and served for 21 years before retiring as an intelligence warrant officer and joining MPD in 1999.
He is retiring as a patrolman and says he never sought promotions.
“I knew I was going to probably retire as a patrolman,” he said. “I just didn’t take the promotional processes. I was already retired from the military, and I never really sought promotion.”
Being in law enforcement is a family affair for Williams and his family. His wife is a police officer, his daughter is a dispatcher and his son is a MPD officer.
In 2018, son Michael Williams II was one of the three officers involved in the traffic stop in which 25-year-old Martavious Banks was shot by another officer. Williams received a 20-day unpaid suspension and a written reprimand.
In 2015, Williams ran for mayor of Memphis. He finished fourth in the race, receiving 16% of the vote.
As for his new role, Williams said he has worked with Brown on different projects over the years and Brown asked him to serve as his CAO if he won the election. Brown, a Democrat, defeated Republican Paul Boyd in the Aug. 6 election.
Williams said he is not related to Brown, despite the belief of some in the community that he is.
“I grew up with Joe Brown,” Williams said. “My family grew up with Joe Brown. In the neighborhood, we called him Uncle Joe, but I have no relations to Joe Brown.”
Williams said he had been leaning toward retirement from MPD if he had not taken this job, and it is bittersweet leaving.
“You want to leave on a high,” he said. “You don’t want to leave when things are bad. I think in my tenure as president of the police association, we have accomplished a lot. I think we have trained young people to come up behind us. I feel confident that the police association is going to be OK.”
Williams said Essica Cage, MPA’s vice president, will become president under MPA’s constitution since he is stepping down from the post.
“There has never been a female president of the police association, let alone a female Black,” Williams said. “She is smarter than me and very capable, so the MPA will be in good hands.”
Cage said Williams “fostered a culture of inclusion” during his tenure as MPA president.
“I served the MPA as vice president and a part of Mike Williams’ administration for the last eight years,” Cage said. “During this time, I’ve watched Mike foster a culture of inclusion so that all members feel they have a voice and a place at the MPA.
“The MPA’s commitment to giving back through our Charitable Foundation is also a testament to his broad vision. As the saying goes, he is definitely leaving the MPA better than he found it.”