Nashville Mayor warns 200 police officers will be layed off if budget not approved www.privateofficer.com
Nashville TN May 19 2012 Mayor Karl Dean warns that he may have to lay off 200 police officers if his proposed budget and tax increase fail to pass.
His $1.71 billion budget proposal, which would be funded partly by the first property tax increase in years, includes $6.3 million in increases dedicated solely to public safety. The increase would fund a new police DNA forensics lab and 50 police officers hired under a federal policing grant. Dean says if those officers aren’t funded, the city would lose not only those 50 officers, but also an additional 150 who would have to be laid off so the city could repay the grant money.
“We have been able to make, I think, tremendous progress in public safety and now is not the time to back off,” Dean said Wednesday. “We’d be foolish not to fund the fourth year. That would be a dramatic reduction for public safety in Nashville.”
But critics say that Metro government should look to cut elsewhere.
“I would want to allocate resources from other areas to make sure that department was made whole,” said Metro Councilman Robert Duvall. He’s not sure where the money would come from but is certain other departments could absorb the cuts.
Three years ago, Metro government received nearly $8 million to hire 50 police officers through a program known as the COPS grant. The grant is designed to grow police departments by adding new officers and paying for the first three years of their employment. But the offer comes with a catch: The department has to continue funding those officers once the grant runs out or risk having to repay it back to the federal government.
Metro Police Chief Steve Anderson said the additional federal money allowed the department to open its Madison Precinct earlier this year, reduce the size of the North Precinct and better serve both areas.
“That’s the key to driving crime down, to keeping this community safe,” Anderson said.
He said that without the funding, those 50 officers would lose their jobs and 150 more might have to be laid off to cover the $8 million or so the department could be forced to repay for not meeting the obligations of the COPS grant.
That $3.6 million string attached to the grant is why Duvall opposed taking the money three years ago. He said he wasn’t opposed to adding more officers, he just wanted them fully funded by the city ahead of time.
“The question I had was, will we, three years from now, be able to pay for it?” Duvall said. “I said if you pass it, in three years you may have to lay them off because I’m going to fight you every step of the way.”
Duvall said he doesn’t want to lay any officers off and the money can be found in other departments instead of taxpayers’ pockets.
An additional $1 million would go to pay for the first 6 months of a police DNA lab, including equipment and 17 scientists. Police now rely on the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation for DNA results, which can take weeks to months for results and often only involve the processing of evidence in violent crimes.
Anderson said having the lab in-house would allow the department to add to the list of crimes where DNA is processed, namely property crimes such as burglary, which have plagued the city in recent years. And, results could come back as quickly as 48 hours.
“The future is here,” Anderson said. “If we wait too many more years, then the future will have left us behind.”
Duvall said he needs to hear more about the DNA lab before he weighs in on it, but he wondered if it could be put off until the city could pay for it without a tax increase.
“Conceptually, I don’t struggle with it,” he said. “But what do we have right now? Can it hold us through this cycle?”
Dean said he doesn’t expect any significant opposition to his public safety plan.
“This is the one I think is the easiest to understand and the clearest,” he said of his budget requests.
Duvall may have other ideas. “I think it’s going to be an interesting process,” he said.