Cop: Detroit has been paying for phone lines in empty buildings - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Cop: Detroit has been paying for phone lines in empty buildings

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Detroit Police Officer John Bennett  (Credit: MyFox Detroit) Detroit Police Officer John Bennett (Credit: MyFox Detroit)
DETROIT (MyFox Detroit) -

"I guess if it was a year you could call it a mistake.  Almost eight years, I don't know if you can necessarily call it a mistake.  You can call it negligence," said John Bennett.

You can definitely call it expensive.  The Detroit Police Department moved out of several buildings years ago, but sources say the phone lines were left up and running and the cost to the city is off the hook.

"The police department has been paying a quarter of a million dollars a year for unoccupied buildings that they had phone lines in since 2005," Bennett said.

He has been a Detroit Police officer for 16 years.  He broke the story on his blog DetroitUncovered.com.  He lists eight empty buildings where he says the department has been paying a phone bill.

"Despite the fact that the buildings were closed nobody looked closely enough at the data to see that these phone lines should've been shut down when we moved," explained Bennett.  "Somebody didn't do their job, and it's cost the city probably close to $2 million."

Dollars Bennett says could've been used for more officers and resources, but instead he says he and his fellow officers are paying the price.

"You're asking us to sacrifice more, but you can't manage the resources that you have."

Deputy Mayor Kirk Lewis released a statement saying, in part, as a result of an overall audit of the City of Detroit's AT&T accounts, including those of the Detroit Police Department, billing discrepancies were identified several months ago.  However, the statement points to unpaid bills and doesn't specifically address whether the department paid for phone lines in unoccupied buildings.

Officers like Bennett are demanding answers and they want them now.

"This spans more than just one mayor or one chief, but the reason that it falls in their lap is that they're in office.  They're the ones responsible.  They're the ones who didn't do their due diligence, and they're the ones who are asking us to take more cuts," said Bennett.

The city's statement went on to say the finance director and Chief Ralph Godbee are working with AT&T to determine the validity of any outstanding bills and any bills that are outstanding and determined to be valid will be paid.

Meanwhile, the department has launched an internal investigation and hopefully that will allow them to determine exactly what happened so they can make sure they make the necessary changes.

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