Recruitment top priority in South Bend Police Department 2020 budget
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The South Bend Police Department is facing staffing issues heading into 2020.
On Wednesday, Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski told the city’s common council that recruitment will be a top priority in the department budget for 2020.
“There’s always been a staffing concern and I don’t know what level it is right now,” said Chief Ruszkowski. “We can’t accomplish these goals and opportunities that we have without an ample amount of officers, not just new officers to come on but specifically those to replace the officers who are leaving.”
The department is asking the council to approve $47,381,066 for next year. More than 70 percent of this money will be going toward personnel.
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However, department data shows the number of officers is not increasing.
In 2014, SBPD had 258 sworn officers. The department dipped to 234 in 2017.
According to the budget proposal, the department wants 3 new sworn positions in 2020. But the local police union said this number is not enough.
“That’s not going to cut it,” said Harvey Mills, FOP #36 President. “The city needs to step up to provide a bigger budget so that we can hire 50 more officers.”
Mills said by March the department will be in a crisis.
A third of the force is eligible for retirement, according to department data. Chief Ruszkowski said replacing a retired officer could take more than a year.
“As officers continue to leave that puts more on the officers we do have,” said Mills.
According to the department, 79 people have been shot since the start of the year. There have been 10 homicides.
Mills said public safety should the city’s top priority and Councilman Jake Teshka agrees.
“I think we need to start moving more money into public safety,” Teshka said. “And maybe away from some of those things that are good but not necessary.”
The council will vote on the final budget in October.
On Wednesday, the Chief did not specifically mention body cameras or similar technology during his presentation to the council. He told ABC 57 News the department is still looking into more body cameras and different features once they are available like gunshot detection.
Chief Ruszkowski clarified the gunshot detection feature is not currently available with the company the department has a contract with, but according to the company, the feature will be available next spring.