Revised budget shaves police funds - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Revised budget shaves police funds

By Nick Kenney - bio | email | Follow us on Twitter

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Critics say the cuts Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton proposes in his revised city budget will mean a cut in police officers, and will create a longer wait time for 911 calls.

In the original budget, the Memphis Police Department requested more than $225 million. But in the revised budget, delivered by Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton on Tuesday, city hall cut more than $18 million from the department's bottom line.

Memphis Police Association President J.D. Sewell said Thursday that would be a bad idea.

"I was shocked," he said.

Ultimately, the 'bucks' stop with the Memphis City Council, who is in charge of the final budget.

"The mayor has challenged us to either raise taxes or make cuts," council member Jim Strickland said.

But what is cut - and what is not - is important.

"If any cuts affect public safety, they're dead on arrival in regards to my vote," Strickland said.

The proposed $18 million public safety shave is more than a third of the $50 million dollar goal, and it's more than twice the amount cut from any other city department.

"Cutting that much from the police budget cannot help fighting crime," Sewell said.

The mayor proposes saving more than $6 million by eliminating jobs, including seven of them in the 911 center.  But, he warns, the cuts would increase the time it takes to answer 911 calls to 5 minutes.

The budget also proposes eliminating 50 Police Service Technicians.  Herenton warns that would require police officers handling traffic, rather than 911 calls.

Plus, Herenton said, some cops in specialized units like OCU would have to return to regular precincts to handle calls.

Memphis police will make a budget presentation to the City Council on Wednesday.  Police Director Larry Godwin is out of town and was unavailable for comment Thursday.

Click here for more information and to read the proposed budget.

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