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Detroit Financial Advisory Board hears police officers' pleas, gets "eviction notice"


Detroit’s Financial Advisory Board is charged with ensuring the city’s financial viability--and has sweeping powers to do that under the city’s consent agreement with Lansing.

But at a board meeting Monday, some Detroit police officers pleaded with the board to consider the human cost of their actions.

Like most city employees, most police officers are about to get hit with a 10% pay cut.

They also face other cutbacks and major changes—including working twelve-hour shifts—as the department, and the city, try to re-align in the face of major budget cuts.

Tabia Tabb is a twelve-year veteran of the Detroit Police force. Like some other officers who packed the meeting, she alternately berated and pleaded with the board to re-think their cost-cutting moves.

Tabb warns that given how stressful the job already was, these changes could push some officers right over the edge.

“What happens when an officer eats a bullet, because they can’t determine what they need to pay for first: whether it’s child care, or simply putting gas in their car,” Tabb told board members.

“I just want you all to think about those things, when you think about the Detroit Police Department.”

Board members also got “eviction notices” from some members of the public, who say Detroit’s consent agreement—and thus the board—became invalid when the state’s emergency manager law was suspended.

State and most city officials, including Bing, disagree. They note that language in Detroit’s consent agreement allows it to continue in effect regardless of the status of Public Act 4.

City officials told the board that a sweeping restructuring of city operations is largely going ahead as planned.

The first major step, the 10% pay cut, will kick in within days. Changes to health insurance, pension and other benefits will go into effect in the fall.

City officials also told the board they’re looking into additional restructuring beyond what’s outlined in the consent agreement.

But despite the cost-cutting moves, the Detroit City Council member Gary Brown warned the board that a Council fiscal analysis shows the city still running a significant deficit.

Brown says the Council wants to address that through budget amendments as soon as possible, adding most members would even return from their summer recess to take that up.

“We have that number at somewhere between $50-75 million,” Brown said. “We have the data to show what that number is. And we’re desperately waiting for the budget amendments.”

Detroit’s Chief Financial Officer, Jack Martin, says the Mayor’s office does plan to submit budget amendments to Council by the end of September.

Martin questions the Council’s deficit estimate, though. But he declined to provide another estimate, saying the administration is still crunching numbers.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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