Looming Police Cuts Spark Debate at City Finance Board
ST. LOUIS–(KMOX)–How can the city be “safe” after 50-to-80 police officers are cut, when some feel the city isn’t safe now?
Aldermanic President Lewis Reed and Mayor Francis Slay tussled on the issue at the city’s fiscal board of Estimate and Apportionment.
Reed called on the city’s Budget Director to search the city’s Correction Department budget to try to find “up to a million dollars” in savings that might be shifted over to the police department to avert the cuts.
“We’re still in the top ten most dangerous cities in America,” Reed said afterwards, “We have 144 murders, where some of those other top-ten cities only have 23 murders.”
During the meeting, Slay and the third board member Comptroller Darlene Green agreed with Reed’s suggestion to double-check the corrections budget for any extra funds. (The argument was that after filling several vacancies last fall, corrections may need much less money for overtime costs.)
But Slay pointed out to Reed that the police budget currently has a $600,000 shortfall — so that even if that much were found, it wouldn’t change the plan to cut 50-to-80 officers. The Mayor repeated his warning that pension costs must be curtailed immediately to avert cutbacks in all departments.
After the meeting, the mayor was asked about how the city can be safe with fewer officers, despite recent reports of shootings, a woman kidnapped and raped, and the occasional knockout game attacks — one of which the mayor himself witnessed the aftermath of, a man bleeding in the gutter.
“We have a lot of safe neighborhoods in the city of St. Louis,” Slay said, “Crime has dropped dramatically. We’re at a 40-year low in terms of incidents of crime in the city of St. Louis. You can have a smaller force, a leaner force and be effective.”
Slay praised Police Chief Dan Isom for his “Smart Policing” approach, which includes a partnership with the University of Missouri St. Louis to computer analyze crime data and concentrate patrols on “hot spots.”