Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Budget and The Police

In 2009, then Police Chief Pandolfi was instructed by the commission to cut $350,000 from the budget. He resigned a few months later and the cuts had not yet been made. Since then, no cuts have been made. No reductions in force, no change in the pay structure, and in fact the police department has continued running over budget.

There are big examples of the costs being too high. The current police chief's contract is far too generous for the quality of service we are getting. You can see fully paid cops every morning being crossing guards at the school, an expensive deployment. The new contract protected most of the benefits and we have not gone to any furloughs. The command structure has been slightly reduced but not significantly. A detective was demoted as a cost cutting procedure but another was promptly put in. An outside investigator was brought in for no serious reason.

Dispatch became a sacred cow in the North Bay Village mostly due to the alarm that changing local dispatch caused a few citizens who call frequently for no apparent reason. This one really sticks out since $250,000 goes to maintaining local dispatch. Ask your neighbors, how many even know that there is a local dispatch to call besides 911? My guess is that about half won't know there is such a number. The police department does not advertise the service and has never conducted a simple survey to find out if the public even knows about the service.

The last month we have statistics on dispatch is March 2009 where we averaged 8 calls per day, about 2.5 per shift. That's a pretty expensive dispatch especially since we are paying Miami-Dade County 911 as well. There are options besides eliminating - we could combine with other cities, we could staff only during peak hours and use 911 for other calls, we could sell out dispatch services to other cities or even condos. But none of those have been explored and we are sitting with a large white elephant of a service.

And so we pay, about $80 per call for just in case dispatch. That's a pretty high price.

The PD is not participating in the community as a whole, not being a partner in the budget crisis, not reaching out where it matters and isolating itself from the community. I have never liked the idea of going to county or another city for police services, but seriously if our return on the amount of money we spend is this poor, why are we even paying it?

We need a police chief who remembers that he works for us, not the other way around.

Kevin Vericker
December 9, 2010

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