Some of you have asked why the police force does not figure more prominently on my menu of budget choices that I think the Board of Aldermen ought to consider in finding $45 million worth of required savings to balance the budget in the next Fiscal Year. After all, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department is our largest cost center ' and revenues are still falling behind the Budget Division's projections.
I do suggest some cops-related savings. Merging police academies and crime labs with the county might save some money; eliminating duplications between the City and the state-controlled police department in purchasing and personnel administration would certainly save money. And addressing the skyrocketing costs of police (and fire and civilian) pension and health care systems now is a critical part of future budgeting.
But, I do NOT propose ' and I do NOT support ' cutting the number of officers. Crime in St. Louis has steadily decreased. Although much more remains to be done, we have made measurable progress. And police officers ' well-trained and correctly deployed ' have carried much of the weight of that progress. Federal dollars would be lost if the size of the force were reduced.
When the budget debate begins to heat up, everybody is going to have a pet program or a favorite group of employees. Protecting those programs ' most of which do good and positive things - will squeeze the public safety budget. I suspect that most residents ' including me ' would rather have cops than a cable TV station.
The process is just beginning, but my own line in the sand is drawn around the police force