January 14, 2010

Council Cites Budget Issues for Motion to Reduce Police Force

After a lengthy discussion of the budget concerns regarding the city’s police department, the Memphis City Council voted 4-0 on Thursday night to reduce the number of full-time officers employed by the law enforcement service by one.

The decision came on the heels of a series of complaints aired at the meeting by a local resident regarding the conduct of one of the city’s officers.

However city officials indicated the decision to reduce the police department’s workforce had been under consideration for several months, and had been previously suggested by at least one alderman in past meetings related to the growing costs of providing law enforcement coverage for the community.

Alderman James Parker, who serves as one of the city’s two police department commissioners, presented budget figures for the council to review at the January meeting regarding the police department workforce. He noted these numbers indicated, while the department maintained the city marshal and three full-time officers, it was in fact averaging approximately 5.5 employees worth of man hours each pay period with the use of part-time fill ins and overtime.

The city budgeted more than $150,000 for law enforcement salaries and benefits for the fiscal year. Overall the 2009-10 police department budget was approved at $251,773.

The council agreed that the current high total of work hours was placing a strain on the police department budget.

Chief John Myers indicated the high totals were a result of a number of recent investigations that required overtime, as well as scheduling of part-time officers to work shifts while the regular officers were attending training to further the professional development of the police force.

In his monthly report, the chief indicated his officers had handled 15 cases in December, including a number of drug related incidents and also were completing a joint investigation with the FBI that should produce federal charges in the coming weeks.

The council discussed issuing a mandate to the department to reduce the work hours to the standard weekly schedule for the four full-time officers. Ultimately the council decided to make the move to reduce the workforce by one full-time officer, allowing the department the use of part-time fill-ins but only to the same equivalent of one full-time position.

The council agreed that the new policy should be implemented beginning with the February pay-period.

In an unrelated matter, the council also enacted an official policy that allows officers of the police department that reside outside of the city limits, to drive a patrol car to and from their residence as long as it is within an 11-mile radius of town. The policy had been approved previously but never officially enacted.

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