No new cops until all slots are filled - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

No new cops until all slots are filled

May 8, 2007

Albany - Albany's city manager says he won't shell out more money for extra police officers until current vacancies are filled. Alfred Lott says once the department is at full staff, then he'll consider increasing the police department's budget for more officers. The police department wants 11 new officers now, but Lott says that would result in a tax increase or job cuts in other city departments.

The majority of the $4.7 Million increase over last year's budget would pay for Cost of living adjustments, pension plans, new employees and health insurance. Plus an added boost to public safety workers.  They'll get a 4% pay increase, all other city employees 3%. "We're going to add another 1% pay increase for our public safety folks to make it even more competitive with this region and for folks who want to work in this area in public safety business and that's especially helpful in our police force," said City Manager Alfred Lott.

Mainly, to bring the department to full force. Currently, APD is short 14 officers. "I think the best thing to do since we have not had a fully staffed police force in three years or more and we are so close to that, let's get our police force fully staffed," said Lott.  "Take advantage of the fact that we pay a good salary for police officers now that we can retain or recruit experienced police officers and see how well we do our job."

Chief Younger initially asked for 11 additional officers, but City Manager Alfred Lott says it's a better idea to fill the current vacancies now, and if more officers are needed next year, provide money in the budget at that time.  He said, "I think the best course of action for us is to get our police force fully staffed, and get the organization set up and then take it from there."

Otherwise, he says he'll have to take money away from other departments, even raise the millage rate to provide for the officers salaries and benefits.

An area that will also get a boost, Municipal court. Judge Willie Weaver asked for money to implement a new software program to file records electronically. "We're keeping paper files on everything," said Weaver.  "With imaging software, we can file that way and not have all the files and this money will help us do that."

Thousands and thousands and thousands of pieces of paper are filed in this room, but room will soon run out. That's where the computer system will come in handy. And while spending money on the software, Judge Weaver hopes to bring in money off repeat offenders.

Right now the fine is the same for 1st offenders, and folks who break the same law, like an open container multiple times. "I asked the commissioners to approve 2nd and 3rd offenses where the fine will increase each time they commit the same type of offense," said Weaver.  He hopes the higher rate will deter crime.  If it doesn't, maybe jail time will.

Weaver said, "Eventually it will get so high, they'll have to come to court to see me. Then they'll go to jail."

The total proposed budget is about $98 Million dollars. City commissioners will continue to fine-tune the budget in the coming weeks. They have to approve it by the end of June.

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