Monday, April 22, 2013

Cincinnati police officers fall to lowest number in 60 years

If 149 Cincinnati police officers get laid off this summer, as the city currently plans, the department will be smaller than it has been in almost 60 years, reported the Cincinnati Enquirer.

For people who live, work and visit Cincinnati, that could mean the city focuses only on the basic service police officers provide – responding to 911 calls. That’s the one thing officers can’t stop doing.

The rest, like organizing prostitution stings and special targeted drug busts, experts caution, could disappear. Investigations could take longer if detectives move back to the street.

Just three years ago, the force had 1,135 officers; since then attrition – no new recruit classes and positions’ going unfilled – has cut the force to 969. The latest proposed cuts would reduce it another 15 percent, to 820.

That’s the equivalent of closing one of the city’s five police districts. District 3, for example, which covers the West Side, has 160 officers and is the city’s busiest.

After the cut, Cincinnati would employ 2.8 police officers for every 1,000 residents, about the same as similar-sized Pittsburgh, where the ratio is 2.9 officers to 1,000 residents. Now, with 969 officers, Cincinnati’s number is 3.3.

Cincinnati’s ratio would still be higher than in these other cities: Columbus and Dayton, both at 2.3; Akron, 2. Cleveland’s is higher, at 3.9.

City budget experts are trying to whittle down the layoff number. But they can’t go so far as to have the saved salaries outweighed by the payout of accrued vacation and other time saved. The accrual payout for the 149 is estimated at $10 million.

It’s a situation brought on by years of structurally imbalanced budgets and City Council decisions to spare police and fire personnel while most other things were cut. The two public safety departments use roughly two-thirds of the city’s operating budget, which faces a $35 million deficit for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1.

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