Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange, outgoing Police Chief Kevin Murphy and his family at the chief's retirement news conference. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Murphy makes his opening statements. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Those attending the news conference at City Hall. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Thin crowd in the audience at the news conference. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -
A chilly news conference with Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange and outgoing Montgomery Police Chief Kevin Murphy was held Monday morning in which the mayor praised the chief for his accomplishments, the chief defended his tenure, and the two spent the hour opening up and answering questions from the media and citizens about internal issues that led to Murphy's separation from the city.
The news conference started with Mayor Strange highlighting the chief's accomplishments and praising him for his long career. But tension between the two was obvious as Murphy stared into the distance during the mayor's remarks.
Following the mayor's statement, Murphy, who stood beside his wife and sons, opened a prepared statement and began a vigorous defense of his time as the Department's top official saying his time in charge saw the biggest drop in crime since the early '80s.
"I have built my life around this city and my people," Chief Murphy explained, adding that it had been a dream of his since putting on the MPD uniform in 1984 to one day be the chief. He reached that goal in 2011.
"It is not my wish to retire at this time," Murphy said bluntly, adding that the mayor was not going to allow him to return as chief. "I respect the office of mayor..." Murphy explained. "It is his choice...I accept his decision."
"Let me be perfectly clear," he went on. "I will answer any and all questions about my decisions. I do not fear the truth."
In a moment of openness and candor, written statements gave way to public discussion by the mayor and chief about rumors, discussions and agreements that led to Murphy's agreement to retire. The back-and-forth responses lasted for more than half an hour as the meeting was broadcast on TV. "We would love a light to come to this situation," Mayor Strange said.
The mayor said he and Chief Murphy had a number of differences of opinions and while Murphy was on leave due to the recent death of his twin brother, other issues came to light.
The issues apparently dated back months before Murphy's twin brother took his life following an arrest for felony hit-and-run charges while under the influence. Chief Murphy spoke of his brother's death, and is the first to confirm publicly that Patrick Murphy's death was self-inflicted.
Murphy said some people have made false statements to the effect that while dealing with his brother's passing, he was 'emotionally unstable'. Murphy said he was grieving the passing and it should not have been confused with being unstable.
Mayor Strange reiterated that Murphy was allowed to have as much time as he needed.
The mayor said retired and active police officers contacted his office about what they perceived as a vindictive style used by the chief. Murphy said he never mistreated anyone and never ruled with fear but said, "Maybe I pushed this group a little too hard."
In one example of his perceived harshness, Murphy admitted he confronted a young officer who came on duty with mud on his boots. He defended his actions saying police officers are not made of silk, but of steel. "You want the toughest in your neighborhood."
Mayor Strange said there were also expenditures that his office did not believe to be appropriate citing what he called an "illegal contract" signed by Chief Murphy with a downtown hotel for a Christmas celebration. Murphy felt he'd been wronged because he wasn't included in the discussion between the mayor's office and the office of Director of Public Safety, Chris Murphy, to cancel the event. The Murphys are not related.
Chief Murphy said he'd also been told, "Members of my MPD family were ordered not to talk to me," and that he'd been told he was barred from the MPD building, statements Mayor Strange said were rumors and had no truth.
Mayor Strange said there was technically no investigation conducted, but an inquiry led him to believe there was a hostile work environment. Murphy had indicated he would like to remain with the department through the end of the year, but the mayor said there was no conceivable way in which he could see that happening.
The agreement was made that the chief will remain on paid administrative leave until the end of the fiscal year, September 30. At that point he will be officially retired.
MPD Chief of Staff John Brown was named by the mayor to be interim police chief until a replacement can be named, someone Murphy said was completely capable but also warned would have to make tough, unpopular decisions as the police department's leader.
Murphy said the department is in good hands and said he is ready to move on.
The theme of family was weaved throughout the news conference, the mayor calling it a difficult time for the Murphy family and his own family. The mayor took criticism of his own, with some in attendance calling him a liar and one even asking for his resignation.
"MPD is like family," Murphy said. "Every now and then you have a bad day." If the tense handshake and the outgoing chief's wife's refusal to hug the mayor are any indication, today was one of the bad days.
Murphy says his days of public service aren't over and has no plans to enter the private sector. Twice he stated, "I'm not done yet," though he did not elaborate on what he would do next.