Flint, MI– The Flint Police Department hopes to use American Rescue Plan Act funding to regain control of 911 for the city and fund various public safety initiatives.
The city has learned it will receive $94.7 million in ARPA funding as part of a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package intended to help the country recover from the pandemic. Although the money is tied to COVID-19, the city can use it to tackle other issues, including public safety.
During a budget hearing for the police department on April 14, members of the Flint City Council suggested finding ways to use ARPA funds to support police and reduce overall city spending. .
According to the proposed budget, police and fire services represent 62% of the budgeted General Fund expenditures for FY2023.
Here are some of the concerns raised by council members regarding the community policing plan and proposed budget.
Hire more officers
“We know from current trends that if we have X number of police officers, we can expect X number of crimes, and we’re not doing anything to influence them in large numbers,” Councilman Dennis Pfeiffer said. “So as a community, I think we can expect high murder rates in some future until we can come up with a budget that further intensifies law enforcement, more boots on the field, more investigators, the whole thing.”
According to the budget, 118 full-time police officer positions and 24 full-time civilian personnel positions are budgeted for 2022. For 2023, the proposed budget includes 116 full-time police officer positions and 27 civilian full-time personnel positions. full-time.
For part-time positions, there are eight police officers and 38 civilian officers budgeted for 2022. For 2023, the number of part-time police officers increases to 11 and civilian positions drop to 37.
Police Chief Terence Green said he did not know why the number of full-time police officers had been reduced in the budget. The Department of Finance was not present at the hearing to answer questions from council on various aspects of the budget.
“We need to increase our visibility in the community, and that can only be done by hiring more police officers,” Green said.
The department currently has 100 sworn police officers, he said, including five people at the police academy. He said the department plans to send seven more to the academy soon.
As of Sept. 1, 2020, Green said the department has hired 29 officers, but there are still 25 vacancies.
“The problem is that we’re constantly competing with other departments, officers are being transferred and lately the biggest void has been retirements,” Green said. He said nine sworn police officers are eligible to retire by July 1.
One area he says would be helpful to the department is for more part-time civilian staff to become full-time. Civilian staff, he said, are the ones who do the inside work like answering phones and taking complaints, freeing up officers to patrol and answer calls.
“These civilian employees who are part-time, I need at least four of them to be promoted to full-time,” Green said. He said the budget does not need to change now because these positions are vacant, but once they are filled, he would like to upgrade the full-time positions and change the future budget.
Councilman Eric Mays proposed that council establish a budget to “go big” for advertising police officer positions on television.
“We can decide how big of a budget we need for the ad because that ad can be seen from Flint to Bay City to Midland to Saginaw,” he said. “And if we get the recruiting packages together, I just think we’ll increase our numbers and we can fix the patrol and/or the detective unit. I’m willing to spend a million dollars or more to try.
Green said wanting higher pay and reduced workloads are the most common reasons officers give for leaving the department.
He compared Flint’s numbers to those of another department and found that entry-level officers in Mt. Morris Township earned an hourly wage of $20.73. In Flint, entry-level agents earn $19.43 per hour. Additionally, he said Flint officers answered 58,000 calls in 2021 and Mt. Morris Township officers answered 28,000.
On February 14, the board approved a resolution using ARPA funds to award a bonus to sworn Flint Police Department officers, certified Flint Fire Department fire suppression personnel, and personnel qualified public safety civilian support. In March, the council approved another $500,000 in funding from ARPA to provide incentives for new police hires.
Green said both of these resolutions helped improve officer morale.
Councilor Eva Worthing said the council couldn’t just raise their salaries and it had to be done through the officers’ union.
“I think we need to re-evaluate how much we pay in terms of salary, but I’m really happy ARPA funds can help us recruit more officers,” Worthing said.
Buy technology to help police services
“One of my biggest things is dumping and installing cameras in areas where they constantly dump. … So hopefully within this proposed budget, or your ARPA dollar budget, there is a demand of high-tech cameras in these dumping areas,” Councilman Quincy Murphy said.
Green said the department has deployed cameras to hotspots of the scorch and dumping.
“The police department has strategically placed high-quality surveillance cameras to help prevent and solve violent crime, as well as illegal dumping and property crime,” Green said.
But he said he didn’t think those cameras were “effective enough”, so the department ordered more “high-tech” cameras.
He said the department ordered 12 cameras through a grant, but was still waiting for them to be delivered so they could be deployed. The department is also awaiting delivery of the body cameras.
Mays said he wasn’t thrilled about the prospect of 12 more cameras.
“Guess what makes me excited? 212,” Mays said.
Green said the department would like to buy more cameras, but told the board they cost $12,000 each. He said they were applying for grants to buy them, but Mays said the city already had a grant.
“We got a grant, we got $94 million. They are called ARPA funds,” Mays said.
Currently, Green said, the department only has one of the $12,000 high-tech cameras and is circulating it around different locations.
The police budget for 2022 has $5,145,766 in expenditures under the “Supplies and Operating Expenses” category. In 2023, this amount will increase to $5,699,000.
Councilor Judy Priestley also suggested using ARPA funds to purchase the cameras.
“If we can pump money into ARPA for equipment, let’s put the extra money back into salaries,” she said.
Take control of 911
Green told the board that the police department had discussed with the administration the possibility of returning control of 911 to the city instead of the county.
“But the funding has to come from ARPA dollars. So if they commit to providing us with ARPA dollars to do this, yes, we will,” Green said.
He estimated initial start-up costs would be around $3 million to $4 million, and staffing costs would come from the 911 surcharge. He said the equipment is already at the installation.
“We have already done the research. So all the administration has to do is tell us yes, we’re doing it and we’re going to use ARPA dollars to do it,” Green said. “That’s the only way we could do it.”
For a priority 911 call, Green said the department’s average response time was about 30 minutes. He wants that time to be cut in half.
With the city controlling 911, Green hopes to not only reduce response times but also improve the customer service residents get when they make a call.
“We receive several complaints from citizens complaining that they were rudely contacted on the phone, that they were put on hold,” Green said.
But he said that if the police department is responsible for 911, they will be the ones answering the phones and deciding where to direct the police.
“We’ll have a supervisor there at the 911 center, and if a call comes in, the sergeant has the authority to say, ‘Pull the car one and send them to that call,'” Green said. “If we have more control, it will improve customer service, improve the relationship between us and the community because right now citizens are complaining about 911. They think it’s actually us, whereas This is not the case.
There will be another budget hearing on Monday, April 18 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. to consider the budget for the Mayor’s office/administration.