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Fort Wayne police to go second year without new recruits

Wednesday, October 3, 2012 - 6:36 am

The Fort Wayne Police Department will go without hiring new officers for a second straight year in 2013 – a situation that could force future cutbacks on non-essential duties for the shrinking force.

Police Chief Rusty York on Tuesday told City Council the department is 21 officers below its maximum level, with more retirements expected at the end of this year, and would not train any new recruits under Mayor Tom Henry's proposed 2013 budget.

“It will carry us through 2013, but what concerns me is our personnel issues,” York said of the spending plan. “It's obviously something I'm concerned about, we're all concerned about.”

Unless the city can find the money in upcoming budget years to hire new officers, York said the police department would likely need to cut back on what he described as “peripheral” activities – such as school resource officers, crime prevention and collaboration with federal agencies on fighting gangs.

A new class of 21 recruits in 2013 would cost about $1.3 million to hire, York said.

Councilman Geoff Paddock, D-5th, said the lack of money for new officers showed the challenge council would face in funding the police department's needs in future budget years, which could be even tighter.

“We want to find out what the needs are that aren't being addressed in the long term,” Paddock said.

Aging equipment is another challenge for the police department. The mayor's budget calls for about $3 million to go toward 70 new police cruisers – about 20 fewer than needed after the city did not buy any new cars this year, York said.

At a proposed budget of more than $55 million in 2013, the police department is the city's largest division. Council opened its departmental hearings Tuesday on Henry's $174 million spending plan, about $140 million of which is supported by property taxes.

Business study request withdrawn

Also Tuesday, officials with Henry's administration withdrew a request for about $43,000 that would have gone toward the first phase of a study on how the city can include more small and minority-owned businesses in the contracting process.

Republican council members had expressed doubts about whether the study, which would be done by Oakland, Calif.-based firm Mason Tillman Associates, would be worth the cost.

City officials said Tuesday that the Metropolitan Human Relations Commission will help fund the study with Community Development Block Grant funds.