MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Miami City Commission gave its vote of approval to move ahead with a plan to add 100 officers to the city’s police department.
The additional personnel will boost the department’s ranks to 1,244 sworn officers, and better align the ratio of police to residents in Miami with cities like Baltimore, Atlanta and Memphis, CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald reported.
“If we are ever going to become the great city that we claim we are going to become, we need to do at a minimum what Philadelphia does,” said Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, noting that Philadelphia employs 4.3 officers for every 1,000 citizens, compared to the 2.6 officers for every 1,000 citizens in Miami.
While the commission did not take an official vote, a majority of members and Mayor Tomás Regalado expressed support for the initiative, and City Manager Johnny Martinez said he would begin work on a detailed strategy for police hiring.
“The number one priority should be policing,” Commissioner Francis Suarez said. “It’s a critical need in the city.”
Sarnoff, who pitched the idea in his first official act as commission chairman, wants to go further, adding 300 officers over the next three years.
It won’t be easy. Miami is already 50 officers shy of the 1,144 officers covered by the budget. City officials blame the shortage on administrative hiccups between the police department and the city’s human relations department.
Making the bottleneck worse, Miami must adhere to special guidelines from the Department of Justice when recruiting new officers.
Regalado said that streamlining the process for hiring police might require a change to the city charter. If that is the case, he said, it would have to wait until the next election.
But Police Chief Manuel Orosa said the city could reasonably hire between 150 and 200 new officers in 2013 by adding a few additional police academy instructors.
“Parts of our city are becoming more vertical,” Orosa said. “You need more officers to cover the density.”
Orosa estimated that the salaries for 100 new officers would cost about $7.4 million a year. There would be additional costs for the officers’ uniforms, cars and fuel, he said.
The commission would need to formally approve the additional expenses.
After Thursday’s discussion, Regalado said he was committed to expanding the police department as quickly as possible.
Martinez, the city manager, offered a note of caution.
“We need to be very strategic,” he said. “It’s not just hiring 100 officers, it is hiring the right 100 officers.”
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