Detroit police officers: 'The city is getting more dangerous'

DETROIT – The Detroit Police Officer’s Association has not been shy about expressing its anger with the proposed new contract that calls for a 10 percent pay cut and 12-hour shifts for officers. Last Saturday, they made their voices heard letting people know that they are entering the city “at their own risk.”

“The city is getting more dangerous,” said DPOA President Joe Duncan. “In fact, the only thing I know that’s going down in the city of Detroit is my paycheck and my (officers’) membership.”

The DPOA originally planned an “Enter At Your Own Risk” rally outside of Comerica Park prior to the Game 1 of the American League Division Series between the Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics. The officers changed their minds and instead passed out fliers urging people to vote in advance of two major ballot proposals, including Proposal 1, which will determine the fate of Public Act 4, Michigan’s controversial Emergency Manager Law.

The fliers, which had a baseball theme referencing Tigers’ third baseman Miguel Cabrera’s Triple Crown, warned visitors that the police department is “grossly understaffed” and that the city has the highest homicide rate in the country. In the last 10 years, the department has lost nearly half of its officers to resignations, layoffs, and retirements.

“Detroit Police Officers have made major league concessions in pensions, wages, and other benefits that have saved the city millions of dollars,” the flier said. “Detroit Police Officers are doing all they can to protect everyone despite the city’s less than bush league treatment.”

Violent crime has historically been an issue in Detroit, but 2012 has been an especially bloody year. The wrangling between the city and its officers has spilled into the streets over the past few months, with numerous rallies being held to stop the pay cuts and the workday increase.

In July, DPOA held a large rally outside of the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center in protest of the contract changes, with the city’s fire fighters and EMS drivers standing in solidarity. Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, despite the wrangling, has insisted that public safety is still his top priority.

“For 38 months, there was no impact on public safety,” Bing said to theGrio on August 10. “Other employees had to take a 10 percent pay cut. There was a negative impact on their benefits, but never did it have an impact on public safety. But we now find ourselves in a situation because of the consent agreement, where we’ve got a revenue stream coming in and 65 percent of our budget is public safety.

“There’s no way we can balance our budget without touching (public safety).” Bing says that he doesn’t want to fire or lay off anyone in public safety, but every facet of the city must make sacrifices in order to make things work.

“People need to sit back and look at this from a long view,” Bing said. “Is it better to take a 10 percent pay cut, or not take it and lay off 500 to 800 officers? That’s not the direction that I want to go in. We’re trying as best we can to work with them because we need them. I still say that public safety is my number one priority for the city.”

On Monday, matters became further complicated with the resignation of Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee. Godbee, who had been at the helm for just two years, quit amidst a salacious sex scandal that broke last week involving an extramarital affair with Angelica Robinson, an Internal Affairs officer.

Godbee had been upfront in recent months about the department’s struggles with manpower and issues in dealing with violent crime in the city. There were even stretches where Godbee would patrol streets.

“He certainly had union contracts that were roadblocks,” Detroit City Councilman Gary Brown, a former Detroit Police Officer told the Detroit Free Press. “But once we signed the consent agreement, he then had the ability to go into those contracts, and we haven’t moved fast enough with regard to officers on the street.

“I think there was just a little too much complaining about the community not being involved, complaining about there not being enough money, and not holding the police department accountable for reducing crime.”

The DPOA holds steadfast to its stance that officers are underfunded and under appreciated in Detroit and will continue to protest the increases in hours and decreases in pay. Many members of the DPOA hierarchy were unavailable for comment on Monday because they started their 12-hour shifts.

“The men and women who work in public safety place their lives on the line every day, only to be treated like criminals,” said Duncan during the July 26 rally. “When will this administration make public safety a priority?

“When will it put their citizens first by providing their citizens the same protection provided by other communities? When will this administration understand that without public safety, Detroit will never turn around?”

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