On Tuesday, interim Tacoma City Manager Rey Arellano presented a budget proposal aimed to close $23 million of a projected $31 million general fund budget deficit by eliminating 167 positions from city government. A wide variety of departments would face layoffs under the plan, including police, fire, public works, human rights and human services, community and economic development, permitting, finance, human resources, municipal court, public assembly facilities, information technology, and legal.
But public safety services were hit hardest, as evidenced by the number of police officers and firefighters who packed City Hall Tuesday night for a public hearing on the budget proposal. Indeed, the Tacoma Police Department would shed 56 positions, including 52 patrol officers. The Tacoma Fire Department would cut 44 positions, including 42 firefighters, and close four engine companies and two fire stations.
Department directors citywide were asked to provide summaries of the number of layoffs, cost savings, and impacts these reductions would have on city services. The summaries provided by Police Chief Don Ramsdell and Fire Chief Ron Stephens provide some insight into what Tacoma would look like with almost 100 fewer police officers and firefighters. The complete, city-wide report is available online at http://cityoftacoma.org/Page.aspx?hid=17520 . Here are some of the highlights from the reports prepared by Ramsdell and Stephens.
I. TACOMA POLICE DEPARTMENT
Eliminate police patrol support to Business Improvement Area (BIA) — Eliminates two officers dedicated to partnering with the Business Improvement Area for policing efforts within the downtown core of the City of Tacoma. This will result in less police visibility in the downtown core of Tacoma, decreasing citizen safety and security. Proactive work in crime deterrence will be greatly reduced. The Police Department’s ability to work proactively with business partners in crime prevention and intervention will be reduced. These patrol officers will be reassigned as primary call responders to backfill shortages in patrol.
GENERAL FUND SAVINGS: $226,000
NUMBER OF LAYOFFS: 2 BIA Officers
Reduction in Community Liaison Officers — Reduces ability to partner and coordinate community based services; delay in responding to specific community concerns; increased calls for service due to the lack of proactive police work by the Community Liaison Officers. Reduced focus in quality of life crimes and their impact on neighborhoods and business districts. Reduced crime prevention efforts with all stakeholders (liquor control board, code enforcement, etc.). Citizens will have to rely on emergency responders to handle all calls for service. The neighborhood issues requiring direct interaction and a longer term response will be eliminated. Calls for service will increase citywide. Public relations and police education programs will be greatly reduced or eliminated. This will eliminate community policing services in each sector. This program elimination will result in a delay responding to specific community concerns; increased calls for service due to the lack of proactive police work by the Community Liaison Officers. Reduced focus on quality of life crimes and their impact on neighborhoods and business districts. Reduced crime prevention efforts with all stakeholders (liquor control board, code enforcement, etc.). Causes department to be reactive instead of proactive in dealing with community and neighborhood concerns and complaints. City programs will not be supported by the Tacoma Police Department. Citizens will have much less positive interaction with the police department. Crime reduction will be reduced along with citizen satisfaction. These patrol officers will be reassigned as primary call responders to backfill shortages in Patrol. Three Community Liaison Officers would continue to be funded by Public Works Department in Community Based Services.
GENERAL FUND SAVINGS: Approximately $1.8 million
NUMBER OF LAYOFFS: 13 Community Liaison Officers
Elimination of Specialized Gang Unit — Reduces ability to target gang problem areas; inhibits ability to pursue grant funding associated with gang initiatives (intervention, prevention and suppression); gang enforcement may have to be performed as collateral duty when feasible. Reduce department ability to continue specialized gang suppression. Will increase calls for service related to gang activity. Will put additional duties on emergency responders related to gang activity. Could result in an increase in gang activity and violence in the community. Reduction in specialized information gathering concerning gang related activity. Result in a greater response time to normal calls for service. Reduces ability to work with partners in efforts of gang prevention and intervention at the local, state and federal level (i.e., Safe Streets, Department of Corrections and Hilltop Action Coalition). May reduce the police department’s ability to move forward with some of the implementation of the Tacoma Gang Project. There will be no special emphasis on gang problems resulting in less proactive police activity directed towards gang members. The neighborhoods and citizens may experience an increase in gang crime. Youth in the community will be at greater risk of being involved and/or influenced by gangs and gang related activity with the elimination of this program. These patrol officers will be reassigned as primary call responders to backfill shortages in patrol.
GENERAL FUND SAVINGS: $654,000
NUMBER OF LAYOFFS: 1 Sergeant, 5 Patrol Officers
Elimination of School Resource Officer Program — Greatly reduces collaborative working relationships with Tacoma Public Schools; inhibits the police department’s ability to effectively manage gang and youth issues within schools; significantly reduces gang prevention measures; creates barriers between youth and police due to lack of personal interaction. Eliminates overt police presence in the high schools; diminishes sense of safety for students; reduces prevention and intervention measures with youth. May negatively impact the City’s implementation efforts in the Gang Assessment Project. There is a $300,000 reduction in revenue from the Tacoma School District associated with eliminating school resource officers. These patrol officers will be reassigned as primary call responders to backfill shortages in patrol.
GENERAL FUND SAVINGS: $340,000
NUMBER OF LAYOFFS: 1 Sergeant, 5 Patrol Officers
II. TACOMA FIRE DEPARTMENT
Reduced Fire Response — For every 12 firefighter positions cut, one fire engine company will be eliminated. These proposed actions will severely impact the department’s response capacity and lead to higher mortality rates, increased fire damage, negative environmental impacts.
GENERAL FUND SAVINGS: Approximately $4 million
NUMBER OF LAYOFFS: 42 Firefighters
Reduction in Fire Prevention Inspections — The Tacoma Fire Department will conduct fewer fire and life safety inspections, fire investigations, and code compliance inspections.
GENERAL FUND SAVINGS: Approximately $300,000
NUMBER OF LAYOFFS: 2 Fire Prevention Positions
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Tacoma budget cuts would impact police, fire services — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=2081465&more=0
Tacoma City Council to discuss layoffs, budget deficit today — http://www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=2080902&more=0
Public meetings Tuesday tackle Tacoma’s budget — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=2079650&more=0
Tacoma City Council resumes budget discussion Nov. 1 — http://www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=2060641&more=0
Tacoma’s Money Crunch: City Hall perspectives on Tacoma’s $26M budget gap –http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=2058879&more=0
Tacoma faces $26M budget gap — http://www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=2058379&more=0