We don’t need a newspaper headline to tell us that crime levels are up, and police response times are trailing. The fact is the city of Miami Police Department, at 1,058 sworn officers, is severely undermanned compared to American cities of similar size. The question for city leaders is, Do we tackle the problem head-on or continue to play politics when people’s lives are at stake?
To put the understaffing into perspective, the city budgeted for 1,144 police officers in 2013, but to get to that level and stay within budget those officers have to be hired late in the fiscal year.
If we don’t wait, and we hire the 36 officers that the chief of police says he wants to bring on now, let alone the additional 50 officers I proposed, that would blow the department’s budget this year. Yet, these moves are a drop in the bucket. Even if we hire the 300 officers I asked the commission to budget for over the next three years we still won’t come close to police staffing levels found in the top 10 cities in America.
The Miami Herald is correct in saying our present situation won’t be fixed overnight, but we can begin by prioritizing our budget.
Projections call for increased revenues over the next three years, and we are fortunate that the city is in that position. However, on April 11 the City Commission will consider a 3-percent across-the-board bonus to all city employees at a cost of $6.5 million. That amount may not seem like much considering the $55 million in savings the city has realized, but it’s still $37 million short of our financial integrity requirement (the rainy-day fund that the state requires us to keep), and it is $10 million short of the revenue needed to hire 100 police officers.
Now is not the time for populist political moves. We need to strategize and put our police department budget closer in line with comparable cities. Our current staffing levels may have been acceptable 30 years ago, and an across-the-board bonus may be good politics, but it’s not what Miami needs and deserves.
Marc D. Sarnoff, chair,
Miami City Commission, Miami