At Detroit budget hearings, police grapple with officer retention issues
The Detroit Police Department wants to boost its budget and add personnel in the coming budget year, but some in the department want to focus on keeping the officers the department already has.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s budget proposes an additional $8 million for police in the coming fiscal year.
The department wants to use much of that to add another 141 employees to its ranks.
But just 72 would be full-time permanent sworn officer positions. Another 15 would be grant-funded officer positions, and the rest would be civilian employees assigned to the DPD’s real time crime center and other duties.
Lt. Rodney Sizemore of the Detroit Police Lieutenants and Sergeants Association told the Detroit City Council during a budget hearing Monday the department has lost over 600 officers in the past three years.
“There has been an uptick in officers leaving. I ask that you all look at what are the retention measures that keep these officers here, to keep them from leaving,” Sizemore said.
Sizemore says it’s not just veteran officers leaving the department. Many relatively new officers quickly leave Detroit soon after they finish training, meaning the city invests in the officer training but sees virtually no return.
For example, the department says that of the 49 officers it hired last month, seven have already resigned, something a spokeswoman said was “not unusual.” Overall DPD had 56 vacant positions as of November 2017, according to the city’s Chief Financial Officer.
Police Chief James Craig says the department is doing what it can to boost its ranks, and that police academy classes are consistently full.
“We are launching a new class monthly. At any given time we might have as many as 200 new officers in the academy,” Craig said.
Craig admits it’s been “taxing” for the department to integrate so many new officers in the face of consistent attrition.
But he praised the work of many of the young officers, including Officer Darren Weathers, who died earlier this month in a traffic accident during what Craig initially termed a “training exercise.” The circumstances surrounding his death are now under investigation.
DPD has managed to boost ranks overall in the past two years and has about 1700 sworn officers. That’s still hundreds fewer than when the city filed for bankruptcy in 2013.
Budget hearings for all Detroit city departments continue throughout the next two weeks.
Duggan has proposed a $2 billion budget that, if approved, he says would allow the city to escape the active state oversight it’s had in place since the city exited bankruptcy in late 2014.