Need A Cop? After Layoffs, Take A Number

MIAMI (CBS4) – Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez rode in the Martin Luther King parade Monday and agreed with his police director that pending police layoffs – if consummated – will dramatically impact non-emergency service.

“Some of the response times, on some of these things, right now can take hours.  We may be even a little bit slower on that, but we’re not going to be slower on the violent crime,” Gimenez told CBS4’s Gary Nelson just before the parade began.  “In some cases, people calling in will simply be given a case number.  A green and white patrol car will not respond.”

Over the weekend, Gimenez’s police director, James Loftus did not sugar coat the impact the layoffs pose.

“This is a big hit for us,” a grim-faced Loftus said at a Saturday news conference.  He promised citizens only the emergency basics.

“When somebody picks up the phone and they call and they ask for us, somebody goes,” Loftus said.  He added, however, that response times to property crimes will be significantly slower, if a uniformed officer responds at all.  Burglaries, fraud, theft, all will see less investigative work done, Loftus said, as more officers are moved to the street and out of specialized units.

More than 150 police officers are facing dismissal after county commissioners refused to impose an additional five percent pay cut on them in the form of higher health insurance premiums.  Gimenez asked for the deeper cuts in order to balance the county’s budget and avoid letting people go.  He has vetoed the commission’s rejection of the pay cuts.  The veto could be upheld at a commission meeting January 24th, in which case the question of how to balance the budget goes back to square one.

Residents, particularly in higher crime neighborhoods, worry that criminals will get the upper hand if the layoffs are allowed to stand.

“We have a big problem with the police force we have now,” said Essie Williams, a homeowner in Northwest Miami-Dade.  “We don’t need to lessen the force.  Crime is too much on the up-rise.”

Some commissioners who voted against the deeper pay cuts – and essentially in favor of the layoffs – agreed that the reduced force, if it happens, will hinder crime-fighting efforts.

Commissioner Barbara Jordan – who opposed the mayor’s plan, essentially in favor of layoffs – said some of her colleagues have not been realistic in assessing the result of their vote.

“You’re going to have impacts,” Jordan told CBS4 News on Monday.  “We keep trying to tell the community there are no impacts and that’s what leads them to believe it’s okay for this to happen.  It’s not okay.”

The commission and administration were left with a gaping budget hole to fill after they rolled back an unpopular property tax increase that saw former Mayor Carlos Alvarez recalled from office.

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