Pending , changes to staffing provisions in place for Dearborn’s police and fire departments could be up for public vote in November.
But Police Officers Association of Dearborn President Gregg Allgeier thinks that doing away with or lowering minimum staffing is not necessarily the only–or the best–option for cutting costs in the department.
The 2004 voter-approved charter measure on the issue mandates 2.1 officers per every 10,000 residents, totaling 206 based on 2010 census numbers, which put Dearborn at about 98,000 residents.
However, that number has been much lower for years—totaling between 180-190 on average. Currently, there are 182 employees—96 of which are on patrol duty.
The department realizes the budget troubles the city has been in for years, Allgeier said.
“The city has never fulfilled the mandate and … Mayor O’Reilly has been up front with that,” Allgeier said. “We’ve worked with the city not to hold their feet to the fire on that, because we understand that he’s got bigger challenges to run the rest of the city.
“We’ve been very cooperative, in my opinion,” he added. “Our members have been doing more with less for the last seven years.”
However, several City Council members that if the department has consistently functioned with less manpower, the staffing mandate should reflect that so that the city doesn’t have to budget for the full 206.
But one of the other main issues Allgeier cites as reason to keep minimum staffing is the same reason the law came about in the first place: the department’s “staggering” attrition rate, which has left them scrambling to replace officers who retire.
“There’s about 45 guys that can retire over the next three years,” Allgeier said, adding that they’ve already lost four or five over the past few months.
“When their time is up, guys are cashing out and collecting pensions,” he added. “They’re moving on to another career or another police job.”
Allgeier also suggested that there are several ways costs could be cut for the department without cutting jobs, including switching officers from 8- to 12-hour shifts—a measure Allgeier outlined in a contract proposal his union recently submitted to Mayor O’Reilly.
Additionally, Allgeier cited the department’s paid intern program and policy of paying to send newly hired officers through the police academy as unnecessary expenses.
The intern program costs the city approximately $70,000 per year, while it costs $5,800 per person to send an officer through the academy.
“It’s nice to afford that to young people,” Allgeier said of the internship program, “but we’re in a budget crisis, so between that and sending people to the academy, there’s significant savings there.”
There has been hesitation on Mayor O’Reilly’s part to bring the issue of minimum staffing to the table, mainly because he didn’t think there was significant public support for it.
“I’m a realist,” O’Reilly . “I’m not going to go out and ask people to vote to have less police officers.”
But O’Reilly–along with several other council members–have publicly supported lowering minimum staffing provisions for police and fire.
Allgeier wouldn’t comment on whether he believes residents will support the ballot proposal, but said he knows the public is supportive of and happy with Dearborn’s police and fire departments.
“The public is tremendously supportive of the police department and the fire department,” he said. “We’ve always had a great relationship with them. They go above and beyond in supporting us.”
Members of the public are expected to show that support at Tuesday’s meeting on the subject–several of them calling for a showing in Facebook posts.
For live updates from the meeting, follow Dearborn Patch on Facebook.