DeKALB -– DeKalb City Manager Bill Nicklas says until violent crime drops in the city, he doesn’t support reducing the DeKalb Police Department’s budget.
In city documents ahead of Monday’s council meeting – during which it’s expected the council will discuss proposed police policy reforms, including restructuring the department – Nicklas cites an upswing in violent crime, and a double shooting midday on the Fourth of July in DeKalb’s south side which left one dead and another injured. A husband and wife face murder charges in the shooting.
“The city manager does not recommend any further reduction in the police department’s funding without significant reductions in the leading violent crime categories,” Nicklas states in the documents. “As if to punctuate this point, on July 4, as many enjoyed backyard cookouts, a brutal murder occurred at the FasMart on South Fourth Street and errant rounds penetrated a minivan, which held several young children.”
DeKalb Acting Police Chief Bob Redel did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Nicklas said he does support reconfiguring the department, however, with an eye on social services partnerships as a priority.
Calls by local and national protesters to “defund the police” have been met with skepticism by DeKalb County police leaders, who say removing officers from streets or providing special training takes time and money and that departments are already overburdened by “lean” staffing, a term Sycamore Police Chief Jim Winters has used.
Proponents of defunding police agencies argue, however, that removing funding from police agencies who would use it for extra patrols, mental health training and other programs would free up funds to go to needed social services, and remove extra responsibility from police, whose protocols often dictate responding to nonviolent or noncriminal matters.
According to budget documents, city support for social services grew by 25% in the fiscal year 2020 budget compared to 2019.
The DeKalb Police Department’s fiscal 2020 budget is $28.9 million (28.4% of the city’s $101.8 million budget), with 80 full-time staff and 16 part-timers, documents show, with 80-90% of the department’s budget going to pay personnel salaries. DeKalb’s police union, the DeKalb Police Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 115, had a new three-year contract approved in March that included wage increases for patrol officers through sergeants.
There are currently 64 sworn officers in the department, documents show, as opposed to the budget-approved 67.
On May 11, the city council opted not to fill three open positions in the DeKalb Police Department due to budget constraints from the economic impact due to the COVID-19 pandemic, estimated to cost the city $4.5 million at least.
Nicklas said Thursday those positions likely won’t be filled, and he doesn’t want to go below 64 officers.
“Any further reduction from 64 sworn officers must be weighed against the incidence of crime in our community, and the effectiveness of crime reduction efforts through a variety of departmental programs and local nonprofit services,” Nicklas said in city documents.
According to the department’s 2019 annual report, theft, burglary and arson rose by 15% attributed to “serial offenders,”documents show, including multiple incidents of suspected arson after several apartment buildings were presumed lit on fire intentionally last July. Drug-related crime is down by 2%.
Nicklas said reducing budgets and staff would mean a rise in “officer fatigue.”
“The high incidence of weapons offenses and assaults in our community demand a highly trained and responsive police force,” he said in the documents. “At current staffing levels, officer fatigue has risen in direct proportion to the rise in overtime. Such stresses cannot be relieved by overtime pay. When weapons-related offenses spike, our small but highly accomplished team of investigators are especially stretched.”
Source: The Daily Chronicle
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