MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - 2012 has been a difficult year for the Memphis Police Department. An officer killed in the line of duty two weeks ago. Nearly two dozen officers are charged with crimes including rape and DUI. And there's an ongoing pay and benefits dispute with City Hall.
Why would anybody want to be a cop? The pay isn't that good. The hours and working conditions are bad. Not to mention that once the badge is pinned on, your life becomes an open book. And just when people start thinking bad things about police, an officer is killed in the line of duty - and we realize just how special cops are.
A story never starts at the end, but that's where this story begins. It was just a week ago that Memphis watched the funeral of a woman who loved being an officer. A mother of four, she wanted to make this city a better place for her children. No more powerful sight exists than the sight of a city paying its last respects to people like Officer Martoiya Lang.
Respect is a word that wasn't used much this year when talking about Memphis police. 22 of them were arrested. One cop is still under investigation for shooting and killing a 15-year-old. One officer was charged with rape last month.
"There comes a point in time where the public will no longer allow me to say, 'Please keep in mind this represents one of 2,400 officers. The vast majority of our officers show up and do a good job," state Memphis Mayor A C Wharton.
The mayor got involved with police this year. The union called it meddling. Wharton called it trying to fix a problem. Even if the bad police officers amount to less than one percent of the total force, the department's reputation was taking a hit.
Police Director Toney Armstrong said, "It is disturbing news. It's things that are unfortunate. We're not proud of it, but we own it. We hold officers who run afoul of the law accountable for it."
"We realize there is a just cause for concern in the community as a result of these highly publicized incidents of police officer misconduct," Wharton added.
There were some in Memphis who did turn against police officers, some who demanded action. It was a bad year, no question about it, and a few people brought their complaints and concerns to the Memphis City Council - a group that was trying to come up with their own answers, maybe requiring officers to have a four year college degree.
"Certainly you would have a different group of recruits coming in," said Memphis City Councilman Myron Lowery. "They would be more knowledgeable, But I'm not sure that's the solution or not."
Mayor Wharton named a three member consulting group to look at the problem.
But on a sunny Friday afternoon, everything changed. Once people heard two officers were shot, and one of them, Martoiya Lang, was killed, it seemed to change everything.
The city stopped and paid respect to an officer who cared.
At her memorial Wharton said, "We now take up charge to make sure the city she loved is worthy of the ultimate sacrifice she paid."
The year ends with a city knowing the real problem isn't the police force. The problem is crime. The problem is cold blooded thugs willing to kill good people.
The New Year will bring plans to combat crime. However, the bottom line is the most important people on the streets are the police. They will more than likely once again be put to the ultimate test next year, trying to make a violent city a little bit safer.