TPD seeks to shrink force to save city money
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - In the words of department heads, budget analysts and folks in the trenches, Tucson's budget situation is not just bad, it's "dire."
Facing a $42 million budget hole at the beginning of the budget cycle, the city manager's office has cut it down to $25 million.
The first $17 million was the easy part.
Now comes the hard work.
One member of the city manager's team said "we will likely see things in this budget cycle we have not seen before."
And if the proposed cuts coming from the Tucson Police Department are any indication, they are probably right.
TPD has been shrinking and will shrink more if the proposal put forth by new TPD Chief Chris Magnus is approved by the mayor and council.
It will allow the force to be trimmed from an authorized sworn strength of nearly 1,000 down to 830.
It will be done through attrition, not layoffs, by not replacing officers who retire or who become disabled.
The savings would be about $7 million, a big chunk of the $25 million needed, but there will be more to come from other departments over the coming weeks.
Magnus hinted this in a video he released last week in which he said, "To get the city back on solid financial footing, we have to change how we do business in the police department."
Magnus has long been a proponent of "community policing," where officers are on the street and meet their constituency face-to-face.
Patrol officers, bike officers and beat cops serve the community well, he believes.
In his proposal, many commissioned officers will leave their desk work for patrol work.
"Let's face it," he said. "Patrol is a primary core service that we need to beef up in our agency."
And others agree that patrol is the most important job in the police department.
"Getting commissioned officers out from behind their desks is not cutting public safety," said Ward VI City Councilman Steve Kozachik. "It's making the agency more efficient and putting them out in the public where they belong."
Kozachik will be one of the seven who make final budget decisions.
All of them, individually, are making the pilgrimage to the city manager's office to be briefed on budget matters.
Most of the public won't know what's in the plans until an open session on March 22, when the plans will be more solid.
"We're reincentivizing patrol work by eliminating some of the assignment pay that puts them behind a desk or puts them in an investigative unit," Kozachik said. "They need to be out in the community."
City Manager Michael Ortega said he wants the city to have a structurally balanced budget in two years, which Kozachik believes may be a little quick.
But if other departments fall in line much as the police proposals indicate, that might be doable.
The Tucson Police Officers' Association said it will wait to see what bubbles to the surface as far as concrete proposals before it comments.
To read the full proposal, click here: http://tucsonne.ws/1OZhK4n
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