MIAMI (CBS4) – For the first time in its 177 year history, the Miami-Dade Police Department will begin laying off sworn officers on November 1.
Mayor Carlos Gimenez told CBS4 I-Team investigator Jim DeFede that in the coming days approximately 90 layoff notices will be sent to officers informing them they will be cut from the department at the end of the month.
And unless an agreement between the police union and the county can be reached that will provide more than $65 million in police union concessions; a second round of layoffs will occur in mid-December.
In addition to the layoffs, Gimenez also said dozens of officers will be demoted to a lower rank as part of the county’s cost saving plan.
Gimenez, however, said he did not believe the cuts would affect the number of officers patrolling the streets.
“This is not about taking out the number of folks we have on the street right now,” Gimenez told DeFede. “There may be some units, specialty units that may not be in service or may not have as many people, but in terms of the officer on the street they are not to be effected.”
Police union president John Rivera, however, said these cuts will indeed endanger the public.
“It’s getting to the point where the citizens are going to have to fend for themselves for a while until the cops can get to them,” Rivera said.
Rivera said it wasn’t long ago that the department had more than 3,500 officers. Through retirements and attrition it is now down to less than 2,900. The proposed layoffs are only going to make matters worse.
“We are way, way down already,” Rivera said. “Ninety is going to be a big, big blow to this department. We are getting to some really dangerous levels.”
“We’re not going to get to the point though in layoffs where we start to affect service at the street level,” he said. “Once we get to that, we will stop the layoffs and then we are going to have to get greater concessions from the employees in order to make up the difference.”
Negotiations between the county and the police union have become increasingly contentious. A recent bargaining session between the two sides degenerated into a shouting match, with the lead negotiator the county and the lead negotiator for the police screaming back and forth at each other to “shut up!”
The man caught in the middle is Miami-Dade Police Director James Loftus, who acknowledged “the heart and soul of our function is people pick up a telephone, they call, and cops come.”
He said he will do everything possible to make sure response times are not affected by re-assigning officers to street patrol.
“That’s the idea, get their as quickly as we always do and maintain the service,” he said. But in return, other units may be eliminated or stripped bare, including crime prevention details.
“Yeah, of course it’s a tough time,” Loftus said. “It’s a tough time for everybody. I’m not aware of a layoff since 1834, so yeah this is a tough and very difficult time for everybody. And as I understand it, they would be the first layoffs in the department’s history.”