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Flint, MI–One night last weekend, the Flint Police Department received 376 calls for service.
There were six cars out on the shift.
“As you can well imagine, a lot of the calls we are just physically incapable of getting to…the reality is until I get more people, there will be calls that go unanswered,” said Flint Police Chief Philip Hart.
Hart said they were able to get to about 181 of the calls, which he said he thinks is pretty good considering the number of officers working the shift.
Councilwoman Eva Worthing brought up in a special meeting Monday night that many of her constituents’ calls to the police about fireworks going off late into the night were not being answered.
“I have limited staff. We go from call to call based on the importance of the call. We get probably 30 or better calls a night about fireworks, and quite honestly, we don’t have the personnel to answer them,” Hart said.
The Flint Police Department has had 16 unfilled officer positions for more than two years. Three officers retired in the last couple months, bringing that number up to 19.
According to the current job postings, a police officer working part-time would make $16.76 hourly in the first six months. A police officer working full-time would make about $19.44 hourly, for an annual salary of $40,429.
Councilman Allen Griggs proposed changing the 19 positions to 12, and using the money that would have funded the seven others to increase the starting salary for officers.
“I’m just trying to figure out a way to sweeten the deal so we can get some of these police officer positions filled,” Griggs said.
Hart said changes like that would likely need to go through legal representatives, but that increasing the base pay would definitely help in their recruiting efforts.
“Part of the issue is the lower level of pay,” Hart said. “We’ve gotten people trained through the academy and before they even start with us, they’ve left and gone to other agencies because the pay is better.”
Between the understaffed department and the protests and parties going on downtown, some officers have had to work overtime, Hart said.
Most of the money meant to go towards the unfilled positions is being redirected to the fund balance, but some of it is being used to pay officers for overtime.
“It would seem that officers have to put in quite a bit of time physically and emotionally to make up for a loss of 19 officers,” said Council President Monica Galloway.
Hart said that was true, and now they “are at a point where it’s difficult to even get officers to work overtime because they’re getting to a level of burnout, and they work enough.”
The police department has put ads online in an effort to recruit people for the positions but that because of COVID-19, they haven’t been able to do anything face-to-face.
“I’m looking to see if I can get people from in the city who know the city,” Hart said.
The police department is starting a cadet program with the University of Michigan-Flint and Mott Community College for young adults to learn about a career in law enforcement.
“That gives them the opportunity to see if it’s something they like, and it gives us an opportunity to look at them. Then we can get them acclimated to law enforcement, and when they hit the age, we can send them to an academy,” Hart said.
At the special meeting Monday night, Flint City Council voted to move $215,000 into the Public Safety fund as part of a resolution to balance the city’s budget.
Hart said the money going into the Public Safety fund will be used to cover equipment expenses, specifically for the computer systems they use for intelligence and running reports.