This one is just too simple.
We're going to spend over $8 million in Police overtime this year.
Overtime spending has been increasing for awhile, but the climb has steepened in the past couple of years.
The Administration likes to point to the fabled "4 on/4 off" schedule that the cops work as a prime culprit. The Administration likes to forget that it was on their watch that this schedule went into effect. And, I might add, over the objection of many citizens and community groups.
"You'll end up with only a 'part-time' police force that will cost you more to operate," we told them.
"It will actually save us money," the Administration said.
Well, too late for that argument and it doesn't really matter anyway. The work schedule is only part of the problem.
When questioned by Councilman Melone about the number of new cops that could be put on the street for the money spent in overtime, the Director played it off.
According to the Director, what's driving a lot of the overtime right now are the mandated "posts." Director Santiago admitted that the Walnut Avenue posts, the Mill Hill post, the Chambersburg (Restaurant District) post, the Hamilton Business District post, etc. was putting demands on staffing that were hard to meet. He inferred at the time that these posts were there at the discretion of the public and the administration and he'd gladly do away with them if allowed to.
Director Santiago didn't' address the posting of an officer nearly 24/7 outside of the Mayor's home...even when the Mayor is not present.
Director Santiago didn't address the lockdowns that occur in certain areas after trouble (usually a murder or shooting) has occurred.
And then there are the emergencies (like last year's flooding of the Island and Glen Afton neighborhoods) that require a police presence. We have to have personnel available to work these types of situations.
While we can find more and more uses for police officers beyond the normal patrol, crime investigation, etc., we have fewer and fewer cops available to fill the slots. Retirements have outstripped recruitment. And the shortfall is made up with mandatory overtime.
Officer are working longer shifts and more consecutive days without time off and they have little choice. And really, neither do we. We obviously have a need for the staffing levels. In fact, I have read that mandatory staffing levels were actually reduced in an effort to reduce overtime costs.
So, we the taxpayers are paying through the nose to stretch our police to the breaking point. We're demanding that they work extra hours, fore go days off and put vacation plans on hold just to cover the day-to-day needs of policing our city.
This is insanity! It is grossly inefficient and a very cheesy way to operate a business, let alone run a city.
We need more cops and we need them now!
We've been very lucky so far that we haven't had an exhausted, stressed and demoralized cop react poorly in a situation that escalates to a major problem.
We don't have enough cops to maintain a minimal presence on the meaner streets in town.
And the administration thinks the cure all is to wave the magic wand of overtime.
It is time that the people of Trenton; the residents and business owners alike stand up and demand a more effective and efficient expenditure of our tax dollars.
We need to hire more cops and hire them now!
Trust me, a safer, more secure city will pay dividends.
We need more cops.