Beefing up public safety is long overdue

Last week it was reported that young male drivers are speeding and driving recklessly in the neighborhood around Pulaski Park.
It’s also well known that this is a problem throughout the city. The solution is aggressive traffic enforcement, except there is one problem: We don’t have enough officers in our police department.
That’s because as fast as the city hires and trains them, officers go and get better paying jobs with other departments.
The root of the problem stems from when a state-appointed emergency manager slashed 10 positions from the department and reduced salaries and benefits by 25 percent.
On top of that, the city cannot exceed its overtime budget when officers call in sick, meaning at times there is a dangerously low number of officers patrolling the city.
The city is now boasting a $5 million budget surplus. That amount is going to be verified by financial auditors to make sure it’s legitimate. If the city truly has that much cash tucked away, we need to start spending it on public safety.
In the meantime, police officers are working with an expired employment contract. The city was forced to wait to begin contract negotiations until a study of the department was completed.
That study has been completed, although a great deal of the findings has been blacked out for public view. Even the officers’ union received a redacted version of the report.
Apparently, or so we are told, this is because it contains sensitive information that could hamper officers in their duties if it became public knowledge.
In other words, it contains damaging information that could help the bad guys plan their crimes and get away with them. The fact that the report has found so many compromising facets of the department is pretty worrisome.
But the good news is that with the report completed we can move forward in negotiating a contract that is fair to officers and won’t break the city’s budget.
One thing you can do to help is be the department’s eyes and ears. If you seen reckless drivers or other criminal activity, don’t hesitate to call 911.
Acting City Manager Kathy Angerer said she is also asking the state police to step up their patrols in the city – like they promised to do several months ago. Let’s hold the state accountable to that pledge and get our tax dollars’ worth.

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