Consultant warns more MPD cuts could mean more crime - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Consultant warns more MPD cuts could mean more crime

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    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

A warning was given Tuesday from the city of Memphis' veteran law enforcement consultant.

Hire more police officers or risk a spike in crime across Memphis.

The Wharton administration outlined the mayor's plan to replace some police jobs with civilian employees, saying the move will save the city money. But it would take years to implement.

DOWNLOAD: Memphis Police Dept. Mission and Resource Realignment

In the meantime the Memphis Police Department is losing officers at an unsustainable rate. MPD is losing around 100 officers a year. As of Tuesday, the police department has around 2,280 sworn officers.

"That's much too low given the situation in Memphis," said W. Richard Janikowski, consultant with Strategic City Solutions. "The department will have to recruit new officers to maintain compliment."

That means the police department is going to need more money to recruit and train new officers.

"What we're seeing now city after city is that officer staffing levels fall," Janikowski said. "Crime, particularly violent crime, begins to increase."

Janikowski, a retired University of Memphis professor, was hired by the Wharton administration to consult on a plan to restructure the MPD.

"What kind of a police department does the city of Memphis want?"

That's the big question facing city leaders. Several consulting groups have told the city, MPD officers are doing jobs that could cost the city less if civilians performed those functions, and the city wants to stop responding to certain calls like non-injury accidents, minor offenses, and things like loose dogs.
 
These moves would allow the department to get more officers out on patrol, but it would take two to three years to make these changes to the MPD and Director Armstrong says he needs officers now.

"Over the last six years you've seen a 26-percent crime reduction, but over those years we have been able to deploy officers where we needed them and we're, we're at a point right now where it's about to get critical," Director Armstrong said.

The police department is facing a flight of officers in the leadership ranks. Director Armstrong said every precinct commander in the city plans on retiring over the next three years.

"I want our citizens to be safe and I want them to feel safe," the police director said. "In order for me to do that I have to be able to. I have to be properly staffed to do that."

To get that done, MPD is going to need more money next year, a year when the city is facing a deficit estimated to be more than $40 million.

"Law enforcement and public safety is a thing that you just cannot fail at," Director Armstrong said. "We just don't want to fail at that because if we fail our citizens fail."

Police funding will be a major issue when Mayor A C Wharton presents his budget to the city in two weeks. Millions will need to be cut for the budget and money for police and fire services make up more than 60-percent of city spending and around 80-percent of personnel spending.

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