Including the ten officers who will be hired through federal money for three years, 24 other officers will be hired in 2014, according to William Fraher, acting police chief.
During the police department’s budget hearing on Wednesday evening, Fraher said, the officers will be hired by the “beginning of June next year.”
The ten officers, who will be hired using federal grant money, will have a retention period of one year: after they are hired, their salaries and benefits will be covered by the grant; however, the department must keep them on the job for one extra year after the grant runs out.
During the hearing it emerged that a police academy that was operated by the department was shut down some two years ago, forcing new trainees to be sent an out of county to receive training, costing the department an estimated $3,500 for each officer. “We lost our certification to operate our own police academy,” said Fraher.
In order to keep the certification, an academy must have two recruit classes per a year, said Fraher. And because the city had no funds to hire new recruits the academy was unable to keep compliance with that rule, resulting in the loss of certification. “There was a time we could meet that obligation, but because of the bad economy,” said Fraher, “we couldn’t.
“It’s a trend we see happening more and more,” said William McKoy, 3rd Ward councilman. “They knock us out of the box and have another county provide the training.” Fraher said he will reach out to State representatives and try to reverse the decision on certificate revocation.
“The 800 pounds gorilla in the room has always been over time,” said Morris, who wanted to know what the department will do to curb overtime in the coming year. “Our intention is that, we hire these people to actually create a unit that will supplant those overtime jobs. And do those exact same jobs on a regular basis,” said Fraher.
The overtime gorilla displayed its head earlier in the week, when council members realized that the Dominican parade resulted in $106,000 in overtime fees for police. Fraher said with the number of tickets that were issued to lawbreakers during the parade will easily recover that amount. He said, “These events pay for themselves.”
Kenneth Morris, chairman of the finance committee, councilman at-large, presiding over the meeting said the department can have an increase of 10-percent for next year; until the budget is finalized the exact amount remains unclear.