By Charles Sercombe
If City Councilmember Tom Jankowski had it his way, Hamtramck cops would pay half the cost of a new bullet proof vest they are required to wear.
And he’s taking that position despite the facts that historically the city has paid for the vests, that there is now a government grant that will pay half the cost and there is drug forfeiture fund that can pick up the balance – all at no cost the city’s general fund.
Jankowski took that position last week in a special meeting and convinced a majority of councilmembers to put off a decision on the purchase until this coming Tuesday. Mayoral Pro Tem Catrina Stackpoole voted against delaying a decision and Councilmember Shahab Ahmed was absent.
Mayor Karen Majewski was not required to vote on the proposal.
Councilmember Jankowski did not return a call to further explain his position. However, in recent months he has demanded that the police officers’ unions agree to contract and salary concessions to help the city offset a $3.3 million budget.
He said at the special meeting that officers should be required to pay for the vests out of their city-issued clothing allowance. The cost of a vest is $575.
The two unions representing officers have refused to any cuts.
Police Chief Mark Kalinowski said the government grant, from the Department of Justice, expires on Sept. 29. He criticized Jankowski’s proposal, saying bullet proof vests are not an article of clothing.
“This is a safety issue,” he said. “Are we now going to require firefighters to buy their helmets?”
Kalinowski also said that most of the department’s vests will soon be five years old – which is when the vests are considered no longer dependable. He said the material in the vests breaks down over time from sweat and water and normal wear and tear.
According to police sources, a number of officers are upset with Jankowski and plan to attend Tuesday’s council meeting.
Former Councilmember Scott Klein said he might file recall petitions against Jankowski and the councilmembers who agreed to table the issue.
“What if a cop gets injured?” Klein said. “If that were to happen, then the council has blood on its hands.”
Klein said if the council agrees to pay for the vests, “then the petitions go away.”