No one is whispering about the State of Michigan’s economic turmoil. It’s no secret that state-wide municipalities are facing devastating budget deficits. The City of Flint is currently facing a projected $8 million deficit, which more than half is represented by the general fund budget for public safety. Unfortunately, this is where Flint Mayor Dayne Walling plans to make cuts after announcing last month there could potentially be 57 Flint police layoffs.
As of now, there is one officer per 627 residents in Flint a number that would increase to one officer per 900 residents with the layoffs. Flint already has more residents per officer than Detroit, Lansing, Saginaw, and Grand Rapids, which will only increase with the cuts. The average for cities the size of Flint is about one officer for every 526 residents.
The layoffs come as a result of the standoff between Mayor Walling’s administration and the police unions. Walling’s reasoning for the layoff is based on the unions not agreeing to the concessions that are needed. The unions argue back that his administration ignores their cost saving alternatives and is asking for pay and benefit cuts that are unreasonable.
The potential effects of the police layoffs don’t end with smaller police forces. This will extend right into the streets and neighborhoods of the city’s residents. Having one cop for every 900 residents in a city with already one of the nation’s highest crime rates has to raise a concern for safety city-wide. The people, The Flint Journal spoke and said they have been scared for a long time and are worried about fewer police officers, the crime will only increase.
Mayor Walling has voiced his commitment in providing the largest public safety force the city can afford and remains dedicated in reducing the city’s crime rate by 10 percent. Walling plans on implementing more efficient ways of providing police services. He is continually working with experts in the criminal justice department at Michigan State University to develop better strategies for a smaller police force. The changes have been suggested to be made through the use of new policing tools, tactics, technology, and old-fashioned foot patrols.
First and for most, the city has to think about its residents considering the cuts are directly affecting public safety. The best option would be for the Mayor’s administration and the unions to get back to negotiating for the sake of the people and keeping as many police officers as possible.
This news has the citizens of Flint worried about fear, searching for reassurance or their safety from the city. Without the luxury of having officers in special units, the police work will pile up on the remaining officers. Naturally, it is assumed some aspects of policing will go neglected considering the day-to-day crime will be enough to overwhelm police forces.
There is also a fear surrounding police officers that will be retained to protect the 900 residents each is accounted for. If the police get into a situation and it escalates will backup be available? How fast can they get there? Will it be too late? There are better chances with the layoffs that police officers will get put in situations where they are outnumbered. The possibility of crime increasing and situations turning dangerous is a lot greater.
Certainly, Flint is not the only city facing the dilemma of public safety budget cuts. Police layoffs can be seen across the nation as departments face the problem of recruiting qualified officers while having room in their diminishing budget to keep them on staff. The need for a better solution is rising. Not only will 57 police officers, dedicated to protecting the public be out of a job, but the citizens of Flint will be without 57 dedicated police officers.
What does this mean for the rest of the state’s police officers? Is police layoffs an issue that all departments should worry about? What are some alternative options to prevent police layoffs from happening elsewhere? Please let us know we would appreciate your opinion.