By Brett Gillin
The city of Miami’s commissioners have increased police department spending by more than 15 percent over the past couple years. On top of that, they’ve authorized 115 new positions for police officers, complete with the budget, within the city. However, despite their efforts, the Miami Police Department is not expanding. In fact, over the next couple years, thanks to some previous cost-cutting measures, Miami is set to lose nearly 10 percent of its force to retirement in the next two years alone. That could only be the beginning of the department’s woes.
The proposition from the commissioners is a relatively simple one: They want more police officers patrolling the streets of Miami. They’ve backed up their desires with concrete budget increases, but that is simply not enough, according to this article in the Miami Herald. Quite simply, although the commissioners can vote to hire more police and set aside budget for them, they are not the ones that are recruiting, training, and deploying the police. That’s the police force itself, and despite the force’s best efforts, The Miami Police Department is well short of the commission’s goals.
The commissioners’ proposal is to grow the Miami Police Department to nearly 1,300 cops in order to help curb violent crime and provide better service throughout the city. But the real number of police officers on the streets, according to staffing numbers is just 1,140. That number is actually less than the original number of 1,144 on the force when the commissioners decided to make it a priority to bring on more officers in 2013.
It’s not simply a matter of throwing more bodies on the street, as the commisioners are finding out. In fact, the Miami PD has hired more than 300 new officers in the last three years, but that hasn’t even stemmed the tide of officers leaving their jobs and how long it takes to recruit, screen, and then train new officers so they’re ready to serve.
“It’s pretty simple to say get it done, but there’s a process here,” Police Chief Rodolfo Llanes told reporters with the Miami Herald. Llanes also didn’t mince words when he claimed that the push to hire all of these additional officers may be doing more harm than good. Despite crime being down 4% from this time last year, Llanes fears that the quality of the policing has suffered due to the ever-looming pressure to bring more and more officers into the ranks.
“Right now the city is at 1963 crime levels based on our population, but you’d never know that because we’re in a hiring crisis,” Llanes told reporters.
Complicating the issue is the looming retirements of hundreds of officers in the coming years. Back in 2010, harsh budget cuts forced many police officers into the Deferred Retirement Option Program. This program locks officers’ pensions in and allows them to continue working and saving for retirement, on the condition that they retire seven years after entering the program. With nearly 100 officers taking that deal back in September of 2010, the police force is set to shrink quickly.
Another sticky situation was brought to light by police union president Lt. Javier Ortiz. Ortiz claims that despite the department having more recruiters than homicide detectives, they won’t be making their hiring goal any time soon. His reason: because of poor pay and benefits, attracting and keeping top talent will be nearly impossible.
“We have to deal with better salaries for the police department and fire department,” Ortiz told reporters. “First take care of them, and then we can start the conversation about new positions.”