EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSPROPOSED POLICE CUTS
from Eyewitness News Online
City Council To Vote On Leaving 10 Unfilled CPD Positions Empty
Reported by: Leslie Rubin
Videographer: John Tincher
Web Producer: Leslie Rubin
Reported: Feb. 3, 2012 10:10 PM EST
Updated: Feb. 3, 2012 10:21 PM EST
Charleston , Kanawha County , West Virginia
An ongoing battle to fund police and firefighter pensions will likely strike the Charleston police department.
Charleston Mayor Danny Jones says the city has more than $200 million in pension debt, and if they don't act now, there will be major issues down the road.
"I think we can do this. I think we can handle it," says Charleston Police Chief Brent Webster. He says he wasn't surprised when he heard ten empty spots at his department were on the chopping block.
"We may have one less detective, we may have one less traffic officer, we may have one less drug cop," he explains.
It's all part of the latest round of budget cuts to fund a pension debt that's already put the Charleston Fire Department head to head with the city.
"The cost of a police officer and the cost of a firefighter has become dramatically more expensive," explains Jones.
There are 162 Charleston police officers right now, but the city is budgeted for 173. Jones will ask city council to eliminate 10 of the 11 empty spots, with a savings of roughly $400,000 a year.
"Just like I get a paycheck every two weeks, we have to pay their out of the same pot of money, so when a person retires it's almost like they're not leaving," says Jones.
Webster says despite the cuts, the public's safety will not be in jeopardy and his officer's number one priority will be 911 calls. "Along with that would be visibility in all the neighborhoods," says Webster.
Webster believes the cuts are manageable, but changes will likely be made within the department. As for Charleston residents, he says there's no need to worry.
"Public safety will not suffer. I can't see how it can because we will keep patrol staffed," he says.
Charleston City Council will have the final say in the matter. They will vote at the regular meeting on Monday. Both Webster and Jones want to reiterate that no one is being laid off.
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