The men and women who put their lives on the line for us as police officers deserve to be paid well. They also deserve good health care and a decent pension. The question is how do we do it.
First, the bad news: there will not be money available for police pay raises by July 1, 2006. And, the City’s three employee pension systems - while healthy - will require changes.
Second, the better news: working together - the Police Board, the officers, City government, and taxpayers - ought to be able to have a fair, affordable police compensation package in place by July 1, 2007.
Over the years, the police department has taken up an increasingly larger portion of the City budget. New compensation will increase that percentage further - and it will require the support of the people of the City.
I suggest a compact: if the department gets more money, people can expect more crime fighting.
I understand there are factors related to crime that are outside the control of the department and City government. But, we must do everything we can to make our City safer.
That’s why I have asked the chief, the Circuit Attorney, the US Attorney, my office, and others to put together a comprehensive plan to reduce crime.
We will make it public in the coming few weeks.
Our City is in the middle of a comeback. We have seen billions of dollars in new investment in the last five years. People and businesses are moving back. There is a new sense of optimism and hope.
The police department has played a major role in that renaissance. The vast majority of our neighborhoods are safe places to live and raise a family. Their efforts over the next five years must maintain the gains in most neighborhoods - and improve conditions in the remaining less safe neighborhoods.