The city is budgeting almost $5 million more in its fiscal year 2016 departmental budget to strengthen the ranks of the police department. Municipal officials have budgeted for 403 uniformed police officers. The department currently has 382 police officers, according to city records.
The city expended $42,600,447 on police salaries and wages in fiscal year 2015 and is budgeting $47,540,358 for fiscal year 2016, according to city records. $2,387,214 of the budgeted amount is coming from non-municipal sources like the federal COPS grant, according to city records.
“This is the first year we’ve had a full complement of police officers in the budget,” said Danny Nichols, deputy police chief, during last Thursday’s budget hearing. The budgeted 403 uniform personnel fall far short of the 497 the department had in 2010 just prior to the layoff of 125 in 2011.
The city has also budgeted for 166 civilian employees which includes non-uniformed workers and special police officers. The city presently has 113 civilian employees including the 22 special police officer.
Police director Jerry Speziale said the department intends bring on an additional 25 special police officers who have been an asset to the department in both cutting overtime and fighting crime.
Specials allow patrol officers to do their patrols without being bogged down on doing tasks that can be better handled by special police officers like issuing summonses and directing traffic, said the director.
William Fraher, police chief, said the specials, who work part-time, have freed up police officers to better patrol the city and respond to serious incidents.
“They are worth every penny,” said Nichols. He said the department is short on special police officers, who have cut back parade overtime “significantly”.
Nichols said the department also suffers from high crossing guard turnover rate. “We’re short. As fast as we hire them, the crossing guards, they leave,” said Nichols. “It’s a constant process of hiring crossing guards.” The city has 104 crossing guards and plans to increase that number to 142.
Police brass said lack of crossing guards result in police officers being deployed on the crosswalks when they could be patrolling streets and responding to serious crimes.
Council president William McKoy asked police brass about crime statistics this year so far. Nichols said as of August 31st, 2015 violent crime is down 15-percent throughout the city.
Homicide is down 29-percent, non-fatal shooting 32-percent, robbery 20-percent, aggravated assault 13-percent, said Nichols.
Speziale said violent crime saw deep reductions more than 70-percent in business curfew areas. McKoy said there may be some displacement that’s taking place. The council president said drug dealing – hand to hand exchanges – have become more frequent in the vicinity of McLean Boulevard.
McKoy said residents have been reporting more drug dealing in the Eastside areas.
The director said technology has radically altered the manner in which drug dealers handle transactions which are now done through texts and exchanged in public places like Eastside Park.
Speziale said overall crime is down citywide suggesting there was no displacement.
The city’s police department budget is seeing an increase of $3,155,113. The department expended $43,259,116 in fiscal year 2015. In fiscal year 2016 the city is budgeting $46,806,673, according to city records.