Keeping a city safe in a time of tight budgets is an issue several Northeast Ohio cities are wrestling with. Cleveland's recent decision to layoff police, fire and EMS personnel came under City Council scrutiny Wednesday. ideastream®'s David C. Barnett has more.
The heads of Cleveland's three safety divisions were on hand discuss the impact that the workforce reductions have had on their operations. 66 police officers, 37 firefighters, and 6 EMS workers have been laid off, and each division head reported that these losses had been balanced by re-deploying other staff members.
For instance, Safety Director Martin Flask noted that the number of patrol officers and detectives... on the streets... hasn't changed all that much, because the police division has been able to pull some support staff out of the district stations and downtown and put them on patrol.
But, Ward 8 Councilman Jeff Johnson said a bigger question wasn't being answered.
JEFF JOHNSON: With the layoffs --- has it made our community less safe?
MARTIN FLASK: Clearly, with the number of layoffs we've had in all our public safety units --- including EMS and division of fire --- has changed how we do business. But, I do want to emphasize that we still have the same number of personnel in the division of police responding to service calls as we did yesterday, or last week, or last month, or last year.
Johnson countered that there's more to keeping a city safe than having a certain number of patrol cars on the street. He suggested that those neighborhood cops aren't as effective with less infrastructure and support back at the station house.