As the DMN points out, no matter what other priorities have come and gone these past few years, the city council and city manager have found the money to hire 200 more police officers per year. It was Mayor Tom Leppert’s election battle cry, as I recall, and the initiative to hire more officers each year appears to have been effective in helping reduce crime. Now that the city budget is bleeding red ink, though, city manager Mary Suhm told the DMN she’s recommending that about 120 officers be hired this year instead of the budgeted-for 191. She cites the budget woes, but she also offers up the excuse that cutting back on the hiring is a good thing because the police department needs more time to integrate the rookies on the force hired the past couple of years during the 200-cops-per-year push.
I don’t have a problem with cutting back the hiring for a year; almost everything else is being cut downtown, so it only makes sense to dial back hiring cops for a bit. But to say that we need more time to integrate rookies seems suspect; after all, weren’t the number of rookies on the force taken into account when the budget was put together in the first place?
There are going to be plenty of tough budget decisions made downtown in the upcoming six months. Why not just play it straight — say that we simply don’t have enough money for this or that — rather than look for excuses to try and save face?