Miami Police eye potential county layoffs

07/15/2014 5:12 PM

07/15/2014 5:12 PM

Miami-Dade County’s budget problem may be the city of Miami’s policing solution.

As the county prepares for a “worst-case scenario” in which roughly 230 police positions would be cut, the city’s administration has taken steps to swoop in and hire perhaps dozens of the fired cops before they hit the street. The plan received key approval last week from the U.S. Department of Justice, which has had final say on the city’s hiring since Miami was found decades ago to have engaged in discriminatory hiring practices.

In an email, senior Justice attorney Carolyn Weiss cited Miami’s “pressing need” to add police among the reasons Justice was on board with hiring laid-off county cops. Another consideration, according to Miami Police Chief Manuel Orosa, was that the demographics of the county’s police department are consistent with Miami’s.

With approval from Justice, Orosa said the city would have a one-day window to accept applications from county police, conduct a quick background check and then offer a position on the force. That would help the city fill about 43 vacant positions and perhaps another 20 that would be added as part of the city’s proposed 2015 budget.

“For us it would be a quick process because most of the backgrounds have already been done,” said Orosa.

For now, the city is watching to see if county officials will hash out a deal with the Police Benevolent Association to stave off layoffs in the fall. The preparations and talks with Justice come as some Miami commissioners have groused about the city’s inability to fill vacant police positions. Some elected officials believe the police department is too small for a major city.

Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, for instance, wants the city to stash less money into its reserves next year to pay for an extra 100 police officers. He said picking up county cops would be “a win-win for everyone.”

“I’m sad for the police officers who may be fired but I’m ecstatic for the city,” he said. “You could hire 100 police officers immediately and we don’t have to go through this rigmarole.”

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