(WMC-TV) - The way residents are protected could change following an intense Memphis City Council debate Tuesday on the fate of the police department.
Crime experts told the council that the city needs to make changes in police operations model to help keep the city afloat.
"We were asked to identify and recommend strategies for adoption," said crime expert Richard Janikowski.
Janikowski told the council that governments are financially strapped across the nation and hence changing how they police.
"You could look at the increased use of contracted retired officers and/or an expanded reserve officer program," he said.
The bulk of Janikowski's discussion centered on replacing officers with civilians in several areas, like the Sex Offender Registry and Grants offices. He also pointed out the department is short 31 civilian dispatchers, the central core of police operations.
Police Director Toney Armstrong is concerned the department has lost 120 positions and no police classes are in session.
"If you continue to let people walk out the door and not make plans to replace those people, it stretches us extremely thin," he said. "I want our citizens to be safe, and I want them to feel safe. In order for me to do that, I have to be properly staffed."
Janikowski explained other efficiencies, including one scenario involving police transports of suspects to Regional One Medical Center. He says the Sheriff's Office is declining to issue booking numbers, unless suspects are actually admitted to the hospital.
Police are then having to babysit the inmates, even though the Sheriff's Office has a unit at the hospital for that.
"Consuming 20 officers as a stand alone unit, and costs the city $1.3 million," said Janikowski.
Armstrong says the city is walking a public safety tightrope.
"If it means more money, it means more money. It's my job to come to tell the city council what I need to keep citizens safe. It's their job to give me those resources," he said.
Researchers say the city and council will need residents' help to know the best decisions. The mayor will present his budget April 15.
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