Miami City Manager Daniel Alfonso announced Wednesday that he has added another 40 officers to his 2016 budget.
He also called a 2 p.m. press conference for Thursday at City Hall to lay out everything the city is doing to hire officers, solve crimes and train new cops in an era of civil unrest and clashes with police around the country.
Alfonso’s moves come amid pressure from city commissioners and some residents to address concerns that the city has failed to meet a commission mandate to bolster Miami’s police staff while violent crimes are spiking. Ahead of a Sept. 10 budget hearing, Alfonso and Police Chief Rodolfo Llanes intend to show that the city is actually safer, and its police staffing at a healthy level.
“As of this date, we have nearly 1,200 sworn officers, putting us at 95% of the budgeted amount,” Alfonso wrote to commissioners in a memo. He also sent them charts showing “that while the City’s population and 911 calls received have steadily increased, the number of [violent crimes] has steadily decreased.”
Never miss a local story.
Over the last two years, Miami commissioners have set aside millions to increase Miami’s police force by more than 100 officers, to 1,261 cops. In June, frustrated by the police department’s inability to hire enough cops to outpace the rate of retirements and firings, some city commissioners put Alfonso and Llanes on notice that they had to come back in September with something better to show.
During that meeting, Coconut Grove resident and pollster Fernand Amandi, who flooded City Hall with angry residents calling for more police several years ago, warned Alfonso that he would call for his job if he didn’t vastly change the city’s dent on crime and hirings.
Since that time, the city has apparently added dozens of officers to the force, and increased the number of police recruiters, outsourced polygraphing, and hired a consultant to review hiring practices. The city also plans to create “neighborhood focus groups” to get citizen input on the safety needs of different communities, and wants to establish a partnership with Florida International University for multi-cultural training for officers.
Alfonso, however, is still getting pressure from Amandi and the police union. He announced the hiring of more officers Wednesday just hours after union president Lt. Javier Ortiz published audio of what he said was a dispatcher holding more than a dozen calls in the city’s south end due to a lack of police officers able to respond. He said Alfonso needs to attract better recruits with better pay, and “can’t cut a cop in half to make two of them.”
“We need more cops,” Ortiz, who is negotiating a new contract, wrote on Facebook. “We need to be compensated with comparable agencies like the Miami-Dade pay structure.”