Public Safety is “economic development”

The Dayton City Commission spent $95K yesterday to “study reuse” of buildings downtown- while at the same time, the Chief of Police and the Fire Chief are both still trying to hire new officers.
Somehow city hall has things confused- they seem to think that people will invest in Dayton when the government refuses to invest in itself.

Police and fire protection aren’t optional, they aren’t trivial, they aren’t up for debate- this is the basic function of government, and if you don’t provide the highest quality basic services- you won’t see others willing to invest.

Already at its lowest police and fire staffing levels in nearly 50 years, Dayton will not hire new officers until at least 2012 and may not be able to hire then depending on state budget allocations…

Since Biehl came on the force in 2008, the ratio of residents per officer was about 375 to 1. Now it stands at about 400 to 1. From 2008 to 2010 violent crime was down 4.5 percent and all crime was down 8.7 percent.

“We will likely be in the 330s (sworn police officers) by the end of the year and I think we’ll be OK,” Biehl said. “The question is that the floor? It’s hard to say.”…

The Fire Department has 314 firefighters and medics. That number could drop to close to 300 by year’s end, Redden said. Of that number, 68 firefighters and four others have 25 years or more on the job and are eligible for retirement.

via City police, fire at lowest staffing level in 50 years.

The main reason downtown lost its luster as the business hub for the region were issues of perceived safety. Even the residents of the “best” and “safest” neighborhoods will tell you that they don’t believe they are getting adequate police protection. Our neighborhood is restarting our citizen safety patrol- despite being one lucky neighborhood that has 2 dedicated “Community based police officers” paid for by Miami Valley Hospital.

Readers of this blog have been treated to a break in at my office, my house, my garage, my girlfriend’s car (3 times) and an attempt at breaking into my office in the last three years. This after a 22-year run of relatively zero problems of this type.

This hiring issue has been a problem for at least the last 10 years. We even wasted millions (thanks, Commissioner Dean Lovelace) suing ourselves  and bringing the Department of Justice in to try to change the process.

The wave of retirements that are in process this year were well known years ago- thanks to the DROP program which had mandatory retirement time frames. If we had a way to recall the Dayton City Commission– this would be a good reason to start. In fact, if we could put a referendum on the ballot (we can’t) one to halt all “economic development” activity until the police and fire hiring problems have been resolved.

Public safety is the fundamental role of government- and if we can’t figure out a legal way to hire new officers ASAP, we should be considering suing our city commission for dereliction of duty and endangering the public. This is having a huge impact on our property values, our community safety and the ability of the city to attract new business. There is nothing more important than resolving this impasse now.

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