SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — The coronavirus pandemic has transformed the idea of public safety into a touchstone by which many aspects of our lives are now measured.
So when the public hears about a proposal to cut the Shreveport Police Department’s budget by nearly $4.5 million, the news is not received well.
Some people are worried while others are downright angry that public safety could be on the chopping block
Still others are downright confused as to why making such a big cut to Police Department’s budget would seem like a good idea to some people.
Violent crime is down. Those four words have been heard often, especially after a surge in crime gains attention and concern among Shreveport residents in recent years.
The rates have dropped in recent years. But according to the latest figures, the overall crime rate in Shreveport is 133 percent higher than the national average.
“We’re having too much crime. There’s definitely too much crime and they need to hire more instead of cutting, you know, letting some go or something,” Calvin Bradford said when approached while shopping in Shreveport.
The department already is down by at least 60 officers, according to the police union, and there’s the threat of even more leaving. The irony is every crime solution has always included putting more officers out in the field.
“In so many ways, we need the officers in," Shreveporter Shantle Hughes said. "And they’re the reason we will feel safe. We do feel safe when we see them.”
Police salaries in the city low when compared with the regional average, said Michael Carter, president of the Shreveport Police Officer’s Association.
They are low enough that a 16-year veteran of Shreveport’s police force just retired to take a new law enforcement position in Texas, one where he’ll earn an additional $30,000 a year, Carter added.
He sees the possibility of a nearly $4.5 million funding cut as insulting and says it would gut the department’s budget and mean the loss of more officers.
"You can't keep pushing the same number of people harder and harder and harder. You have to find a way to make it a conducive relationship between the employee and the organization."
Carter also said it’s important to note that the suggested budget cut of nearly $4.5 million is just the first estimate of what may be necessary because of the huge drop in tax revenue that’s expected as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The real debate about the city’s budget typically gets underway in July and gives the mayor and City Council members six months to come to an agreement.