If Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner’s proposed budget is approved as is by the Common Council, the city will soon beef up its police and fire departments.
Miner says even as the city budget continues to be tight, it’s time for the new officers, with more than 200 potential police and fire retirements looming this year.
"You always are trying to manage, and manage and looking at how many retirements you're going to have and how many you’ve already had, where your needs are and how you can balance those needs,” Miner said.
It’s been three years since the city has had any rookie police officers or firefighters hit the streets.
“In looking at our positions and how many retirements are expected and the size of our force, and how much overtime we are spending, we determined that now was the appropriate time to add a class of officers," Miner explained. "This will cost us approximately $5 million for both the 25 police officers and the 25 firefighters.”
Miner admits the new officers won’t bring the departments up to full staffing levels.
"We currently have 60 vacancies for police and 34 for fire," she said. "Right now with police there are 150 police officers who are eligible for retirement. At the end of the year, we’ll have approximately 180 officers eligible for retirement. Currently there are 58 firefighters who are eligible for retirement.”
It’ll partly be offset by overtime costs the city has had to pay because both departments continue to be understaffed.
Council majority leader Helen Hudson is expecting lawmakers will approve the added forces, noting the community has asked for more police officers especially.
"A lot of what we’re hearing is we need to have more feet on the street," Hudson said. "This is in response to that rallying cry. This is not all the officers we need, but it’s half.”
The new officers will be paid out of the general fund. Last time there was a class of rookies, a federal grant covered it.