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Gary A. Brown Headshot

Public Safety in a Thriving Detroit

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The primary purpose of city government is to provide municipal services that create the environment for residents and businesses to thrive. As we continue to address our fiscal crisis, I will paint a picture of an efficient police department.

This is part three of my series on "A Thriving Detroit is the End Goal."

Public safety is a concern for residents and businesses, and a consideration for people to move here in addition to education and job availability.

I know all too well the damage that crime can have on families and our community. However, I caution Detroiters and people looking to move here -- the crime you see on the news is not a citywide epidemic and it's not insurmountable.

The crime in Detroit and the issues plaguing the Detroit Police Department (DPD) have nothing to do with finances and the number of police officers. If we hire 1,000 more officers and the department is operated in the same manner, it will not be the "silver bullet" that results in significant crime reduction! The critical issues relate to effectively managing DPD's existing resources.

After serving in DPD for 26 years and now as chair of the Public Health and Safety Committee for the Detroit City Council with fiduciary responsibility, I have a broad understanding of how the department operates and utilizes its resources. Acquiring this knowledge was essential in making decisions in the best interests of Detroit residents and the officers who must provide service. With that said, rest assured that my heart remains with both DPD and our community.

During this summer, the decision was made to reduce officers' pay by 10 percent, require health care and retirement concessions, and change work rules. I supported this action for two primary reasons. First, the only means to retain the current number of officers was to reduce pay and benefits otherwise there would be dramatic layoffs. Secondly, all City employees took pay and benefit reductions within the past three years. Although difficult, this was a necessary action by the Bing Administration.

DPD must be restructured to place more officers on the streets as reservists and civilians back fill the administrative and support positions, they once held. Considering our current economic conditions, there is no justification to continue the practice of utilizing trained officers behind the desk and in non-law enforcement positions instead of serving in our neighborhoods.

I propose a District Community Policing Plan. The current number of DPD officers provides the capacity to place officers in 10 separate scout cars in each of seven districts on four shifts. These will be the same districts outlined by the new City Council Districts' boundaries. There are 840 officers in this plan, not including the additional officers who serve in specific investigative units.

These officers in the District Community Policing Plan should focus on three proactive areas to reduce crime: take guns off the streets, enforce truancy and enforce the curfew.

Detroiters want police officers to show up at their door when called. We can make this happen through the District Community Policing Plan because no matter what time of day, there will be 10 scout cars in a district that represents approximately 100,000 residents.

Further, I call upon DPD Chief Ralph Godbee and his staff to maximize the Secondary Employment program that City Council passed two years ago. This program enables off-duty officers to work private security in businesses, for community groups, and during special events. Utilizing Secondary Employment will increase the number of available officers to patrol our neighborhoods.

When we are deep in the midst of challenges, we may not see the way out. However, in terms of crime we have a means. We have a sufficient number of trained officers. There must be both a structural and cultural change in DPD in order to address citizens' greatest concern.

I encourage you to become informed by reviewing the crime, personnel and resources comparison data with other similar-size cities.

When we look at the end goal of a thriving Detroit, improved public safety is a priority that must be attained. In the process we must remove our personal attachments in order to improve safety for the 713,000 residents who live here, the people who work here, and visitors who come to Detroit. Short-term sacrifices -- which I know all too well -- will be worth the long-term benefits of a thriving Detroit.