Anticipating plans to lay off at least seventeen police officers, eliminate two critical anti-crime units and cripple a third, the General Counsel for the International Union of Police Associations representing the officers sent a strongly worded letter to City Manager Lyndon Bonner.
According to Aaron Nisenson, the IUPA attorney, the so-called “budget crisis” is a manufactured one. He said, “The 11 million dollar reduction in revenues is a shell game, the 7.5 million dollar shortfall is a fiction, and the claim that cuts were equally apportioned is blatantly false.”
Calling on the city to reorient their priorities, he accused city administrators of padding funds for their own use while drastically cutting the police officers working on the streets.
The Union has proposed cuts from the officers own pockets totaling an estimated $672,917. Nisenson said that the city can easily allocate a comparable amount from what he referred to as “…the inflated Legislative contingency funds, inflated reserve funds for particular departments, and inflated ‘contributions’ to the general fund.” Under this plan the city would be able to fully staff the police department.
Based on his research, the city’s proposal would layoff over 15% percent of the police officers, all from street level positions compared to only 5.2% of the non-police city employees.
No employees have been laid off from administrative departments such as Human Resources, Finance, City Manager, Financial Services, Clerk or City Attorney Departments with the exception of two City Council clerks. No upper level managers or supervisors from the police department, or from any other department have faced layoffs. According to Nisenson, if there were a true budget crisis they would never be exempted from cuts.
The impact of the proposed cuts would reduce the ability of the Department to fight crime on the streets by eliminating or reducing three essential units: the Crime Suppression Team; the Community Policing unit; and the Street Crimes unit.
The Crime Suppression Team targets violent offenders, fugitives, and violent crimes in progress and would be eliminated placing citizens at higher risk.
The Community Policing unit assigns officers to specific neighborhoods to work within the communities to prevent crime, build community relationships, and establish rapport between the community leading to greater cooperation from the public in preventing and reducing criminal activities. The elimination of this unit, funded by the U.S. Department of Justice will endanger future grants.
The cuts would also reduce the size of the Street Crimes unit which targets gang members and seeks to reduce the violent gang problem plaguing the City.
In light of the impact on the safety of the public, Nisenson admitted that some increase in reserves and contingencies may be appropriate, he also said, “The proposed additions to these funds while at the same time eliminating seventeen working level Police Officers is irresponsible.” He was especially concerned that contingency funds in fact these funds often serve as slush funds, allowing politicians and city managers to fund pet projects.
The five page letter goes into great detail regarding other damage the proposals would do to the city including losing critical federal funding.
In the face of all this the officers in the police union have repeatedly made offers to take money directly out of their pockets to ensure that the Department is properly staffed. Despite these concessions, the city has never responded by allocating even one additional dollar to the Department to fund positions, Nisenson said.
In his closing comments the IUPA attorney said, “The Officers remain willing to sacrifice, however, they should not be expected to pay out of their own pockets to finance City Hall administrators and to pay for Manager and Council’s own discretionary spending.”
Originally chartered in 1979, the International Union of Police Associations, AFL-CIO is the only AFL-CIO chartered labor union that exclusively represents law enforcement personnel. The more than 100,000 law enforcement personnel (one out of every four eligible) represented by the I.U.P.A. are all full time employees of law enforcement agencies ranging from line officers up to first line supervisors as well as civilian employees. The I.U.P.A.’s mission is to protect and advance officers’ wages, benefits and work conditions. Membership includes officers from agencies throughout the United States and in the Caribbean.