Police cuts inevitable despite soaring murder rate

June 13, 2011 7:09:46 PM PDT
In the midst of what San Jose residents are saying is a soaring murder rate, police officers have until 9:00 a.m. Tuesday to decide whether or not they will take a 10 percent cut and lose at least 100 of their officers. The idea of fewer cops on the streets has residents worried.

There are no winners in the new budget. If police accept the pay cut, there will be 100 fewer cops on the street -- if they don't, the city is going to be forced to cut more than 250 police officer jobs.

San Jose police officers say so far there have been 26 homicides in the city -- six more than all last year, and that's with the number of officers they have now.

"That's with the 1,200 of us, yes, so once can only imagine if we go down to 1,100 or below, or worst-case scenario, 920 officers," said George Beattie, president of the San Jose Police Officers Association.

San Jose is facing a $115 million deficit this year. They can shave $15 million off that deficit if officers agree to the pay cut, but it also means laying off 100 officers.

"If the membership chooses not to ratify this agreement we could lose up to 278 officers," said Beattie.

With the homicide rate climbing, and violence like the riot that broke out between about 100 youth at a McDonald's last week, residents like community activist Maritza Maldonado are worried. Maldonado's congregation lost two members to homicide last week.

"We lost way more than two. Those are two this week -- this last week," said Maldonado." We've buried many, many youth this year already from our church."

Maldonado belongs to the People Acting in Community Together (PACT), which represents 50,000 San Jose families. They held a meeting last week. Maldonado says they need more officers but a better relationship with police could reduce gang violence

"Obviously, with the increase in gang violence, the relationship between community and police and the lack of officers, it's going to be really critical that relationships are built," she said.

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed agrees that he should have more officers, not less. But he says city employee retirement costs are skyrocketing. If officers agree on the cuts, they will actually save jobs.

"It will save about $15 million with 10 percent concessions in the police department which we'll then use to save the jobs of 156 officers," said Reed.

Police officers have until 9:00 a.m. to either accept or reject the new cuts and proposal. The City Council will vote on the mayor's budget Tuesday. Whatever the police decide, the budget will contain at least 100 fewer officers.


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