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A discussion must begin now on how to finance public safety

We have stressed this before on this editorial page but some things are worth repeating.
City officials must start discussing the city’s long-term financial picture – particularly how to fund two separate fire and police departments.
At the rate we are going, City Manager Kathy Angerer said funding both departments at their present level is not sustainable.
It has already been floated that the city could go to the voters and ask them to allow Hamtramck to join an existing fire authority between the cities of Eastpointe and Hazel Park.
The only problem with that option is that we would have to convince voters in both of those cities to allow Hamtramck to partner up.
That seems like a huge political challenge – and an outcome that is far from certain. Heck, even asking voters here to pay an additional yearly fee for the fire department is iffy at best.
There are other options. One is being explored now with a new police officers’ contract to begin cross-training with an eye toward establishing a public safety department.
Firefighters are adamant that this model has not worked in other communities.
Another option being discussed is to contract out fire fighting services to Detroit, or create a hybrid department of a core group of full-timers and fleshed out with part-timers.
Maybe there is even another option.
Supporters who demand that the city keep the two departments as they are don’t answer the question of how we would finance that. Instead, what we hear from these folks is to basically just do it.
That is not a constructive answer.
The key is, the city has to begin a discussion on what to do. That’s part of the hard work required of elected officials.

Dec. 14, 2018

6 Responses to A discussion must begin now on how to finance public safety

  1. Fatema Hossain

    December 15, 2018 at 4:21 pm

    Has anyone suggested more extensive use of police reservists as an alternative?

  2. Gary Krantz

    December 20, 2018 at 6:36 pm

    I do not believe that residents of Hamtramck willwant to outsource fire fighting services from the City of Detroit.

    That idea is a non-starter.

  3. Jim

    December 25, 2018 at 12:35 pm

    I’d rather see fire services merged with Detroit fire than have a non-effective public safety department. Public safety simply does not work tin an inner city environment and we basically have Detroit fire services now with the mutual aid agreement.

  4. Fatema Hossain

    January 5, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    One thing that needs to be addressed is the level of lawsuit payouts due to the involvement of Hamtramck Police officers via assignemnt to specialty units such as the COBRA auto theft task force and drug task force operations.

    The motivation of former Chief Max Garbarino in committing personnel to COBRA was the monetary proceeds derived from forfeiture operations to local Metro Detroit police departments who contributed personnel to COBRA. The City of Hamtramck initially received handsome financial distributions due to its involvement in COBRA – but the entire unit was disbanded after federal civil rights suits were instituted due to alleged misconduct. The City of Hamtramck and other formerly participating communities in COBRA have doled out hundreds of thousands of dollars thus far to settle these suits and there are a number of these suits still pending. The “cash cow” that Max Garbarino envisioned from COBRA turned into a source of municipal liability.

    The city also needs to examine the feasibility of local police involvement with its drug task force – which has led to civil rights litigation and payouts. How much in revenue is received in drug asset forfeiture proceedings? Is it worth the potential liability exposure?

  5. Dave Redsy

    January 6, 2019 at 1:32 am

    The city should be exploring how to outsource both the police and fire department. If money is truly that short we need to explore ALL options. The money the city would save on not paying out lawsuits from the police department alone could probably pay for the fire department outright.

  6. Ed Clark

    January 6, 2019 at 12:29 pm

    The City of Hamtramck has tried to use police forfeiture historically as a funding method – but what almost invariably happens is that the profit margin is severely undercut by lawsuit settlements.

    City leaders do not relish speaking publicly regarding status of pending legal actions against the city due to allegations of police misconduct – but the reality is that many hundreds of thousands of dollars are doled out each year to resolve allegations of police misconduct. These monetary losses are compounded by increased municipal liability insurance premiums and legal defense costs to the city.

    When police asset forfeiture eclipses community policing as a primary goal of a local department, citizens suffer through higher rates of violent crime as officers are diverted from patrols to specialty units that primarily operate outside municipal boundaries. The spate in recent years in Hamtramck of serious auto accidents and reckless driving on side streets – as well as a spike in violent crime – is evidence of this phenomenon.

    Law enforcement in Hamtramck has reached a crisis stage and a question being raised by community leaders is whether the City of Hamtramck Police Department needs to be restructured to focus on community policing -or dissolved in its entirety so its functions may be outsourced.

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