Shelby County Commissioner Tami Sawyer was infuriated after her fellow commissioners rejected her call to make cuts to the Sheriff’s Office budget.“What f**king cowards. Cowards,” Sawyer said on video obtained by KWAM The Mighty 990. Watch on the video at the 29:36 mark or listen below:
Commissioners voted not to make cuts of either 10 percent or five percent for the fiscal year 2021. The proposed cuts would have amounted to as much as $17.8 million.
“Defunding the police is not an attack on policing,” Sawyer told the Commercial Appeal. “It is support for the community, for the things they need most, so their needs are met by this county before we throw them in the back of a jail.”
The Sheriff’s Office warned that such a massive cut in their budget would result in drastic measure – including cutting personnel.
Steve Leech, the chief administrative officer for the Sheriff’s Office, said during the meeting that a cut that large would inevitably have meant cutting personnel, particularly from the jail, which is already struggling to meet state staffing requirements.
“We would probably have to close the jail,” Chief Administration Officer Steve Leech said, referring to the 10% proposal.
An $18 million cut would be “devastating,” Sheriff Floyd Bonner said during the live stream meeting. “To take an almost $18 million cut, there’s no way the Sheriff’s Office can continue to function the way we’re functioning.”
Sawyer exploded in rage at Commission Chairman Mark Billingsley.“For you to frame this as we are trying to punish the sheriff – this is not about punishment,” she said. “This is called criminal justice reform and it’s happening across the country whether people like it or not.”
Sawyer was still miffed over an alleged incident that occurred during recent protests in downtown Memphis. She claims that deputies surrounded her and other protesters with tear gas and batons.
She also said a deputy told her to, “Get the f*** out of my face.”“How dare you,” Sawyer told the chairman. “How dare you?”
“You don’t get to tell me as a black woman I don’t know what I’m doing,” she said.
However, after viewing the entire commission meeting there is no evidence Billingsley made that sort of statement.
“You don’t get to tell me as a black woman I don’t know what I’m doing,” she said. “So now the angry black woman attacked you. I hurt your feelings, Mark?”
It should be noted that throughout the meeting, Billingsley identified Sawyer as “Commissioner” and not her first name.
“I didn’t make a negative comment toward anybody on this commission,” the chairman said in his defense. “I’m trying to be fair. I’m not trying to get on the news. I’m not trying to be disruptive. But everybody deserves common courtesy.”
During the meeting Sawyer lobbed another verbal grenade at the chairman — calling him a “white man.”
Billingsley addressed the racially-tinged Facebook post in the final moments of the commission meeting — calling it inappropriate.
“Hopefully, I’m much more than a white man,” he said. “Just like many of you are much more beyond the color of your skin.”
He said Sawyer’s comments were deeply hurtful.
“It’s hurtful to my kids. It’s hurtful to my wife,” he said.