Earlier this year, the Syracuse Common Council allocated funding for the city to hire more police officers. But Mayor Stephanie Miner’s administration said it has no intention of training a new class of officers.
The council cut $2 million in overtime funding from the police and fire departments and allocated $1.5 million to hire new police officers. There are 419 officers currently on the force. The council’s final budget funded 480 positions. But the city is operating at a multi-million dollar deficit and Miner’s chief of staff Bill Ryan said the city cannot afford more officers.
“The council sometimes portrays it as that we are sacrificing public safety," Ryan said "You can’t sacrifice public safety on the backs of the taxpayers because you are not accomplishing anything when you do that. This money is coming out of fund balance. Sooner or later you run out of fund balance.”
Ryan referenced Albany and Niagara Falls as fiscally stressed cities that may have to cut police officers and firefighters. Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler said that is something he wants to avoid.
“The last thing we want is to do is hire police and then turn around and lay them off,” Fowler said.
But Councilor Steven Thompson, a former police chief, said Ryan’s explanation is a smokescreen.
“It’s just going to get worse," Thompson said. "I can remember back when Rochester dropped into low numbers. It took them years to get back. I don’t want to see that happen in Syracuse but it looks like we’re headed in that direction.”
Councilor Joe Nicoletti said if the positions are funded, they should be filled.
"I would hope that my friend the mayor would do the right thing and put on another class," Nicolett said. "It's not a matter of who's being right or wrong, it's a matter of what’s happening to the people of our city."
The number of police could continue to drop during the first few months of 2018 when 20-30 more officers may retire.