Detroit Police, Firefighters Avoid Layoffs, Face Wage Cuts
Mayor Bing's Wednesday night speech addressing Detroit's potential insolvency hit city workers especially hard. Although the mayor praised police officers and firefighters, they did not escape his concessions proposals unscathed.
"Public safety is the most important service we provide. I will not allow police and fire to be gutted. I will not allow criminals free reign over our city," Bing said in his address. "We need every officer we have out on the street fighting crime. I will not eliminate hundreds of our firefighting force. We depend on them to protect us and save lives every day."
Nevertheless, Bing urged police and fire fighters to take a 10 percent pay cut, along with a further 10 percent pay cut he proposed for other city workers.
The mayor also vowed to support police and fire fighters with resources and technology.
"Our officers need access to technology to lock up criminals and prevent homicides,"
he said, making a specific reference to ShotSpotters, acoustic sensors that can locate and identify gunshots. Detroit's City Council had rejected the proposed $2.6 million, three-year contract for ShotSpotters on Nov. 8, saying the new technology would be useless without an increase in the number of police officers able to respond to calls.
Bing urged City Council to approve the contract with the surveillance device's manufacturer.
While noting that general crime in the city was down 10 percent, Bing cautioned that "the most important measure of crime is up almost 20 percent from last year: loss of life to homicide."
After the speech, Council President Pro Tem Gary Brown told the Detroit Free Press that the mayor's proposed salary cuts to police and firefighters did not go far enough.
"When you go public and say that police and fire are untouchable, and they're 60-70 percent of the general fund ... you can't get where you need to get," Brown said. "We have more police officers than 10 of the safest cities in America. They're just not doing police work."
Bing made his speech after reviewing an Ernst & Young audit of the city's finances that said the city would be bankrupt by next April.
In his speech, Bing proposed privatizing city services and slightly raising corporate taxes as other measures to stabilize the city's finances. He also asked for $40 million in concessions from city unions.