Five New Police Officers – Salaries/Benefits Charged to Our Utility Bills – Really? and WHY?
Why the Rush or Why Not Let the Voters Decide?
What is the urgency and why the expense of hiring five additional police officers? According to a 2014 citizen survey, 90% of Ashland residents report an overall feeling of safety, 93% feel safe downtown and in commercial areas, and 98% feel safe in their neighborhoods.
The City of Ashland’s 2015-17 Budget (page 3-58 and page 3-59) under the Police Department section shows a sharp decline in crime/violations and disorderly behavior complaints. Even so, the City Council decided to impose nuisance/ behavior ordinances such as banning smoking downtown. Many homeless advocates complained that these ordinances target the homeless.
According to the Police Department Annual Report for 2016 there were 3,925 cases filed, compared to 3,684 in 2015. The difference, of course, is the number of new ordinances taking effect. The Results of Downtown Survey of downtown businesses recently conducted was fairly inconclusive. Since the population of Ashland has remained fairly constant the past 10 years and the number of police officers has remained the same, why hire five police officers?
Last summer the council approved the hiring of three additional firemen that the fire chief had been requesting for several years. The salaries of the three firemen are being paid with budgeted over-time that expires in three years, at which time the city will need to find new funding or terminate the positions. Should the city seek funding sources, does that mean yet another fee or rate will be added to our utility bill? Meanwhile, rates for electricity and water are due to increase next year. Can we afford five new police officers?
Why is it that the fire chief has to plea for years in order to get three additional, possibly temporary, firemen, but the police chief is summarily granted approval for five officers? As a senior citizen living in Ashland I would prefer more fire and rescue than police. We have a genuine fire risk in this area, which has been demonstrated several times in the last few years.
In light of this, what is the urgency for five additional police officers and can we, citizens, absorb that added expense?