DETROIT (WJBK) - Detroit police are dealing with a huge spike in overtime hours that's costing the department millions but Detroit Police union president says the problem is the lack of police officers on the street.
The neighborhoods will tell you that Detroit's crime hasn't really gone down, but overtime costs for the city's police department are exploding. The city paid $40 million in overtime last year - a 136% increase over the last few years. Union president Mark Diaz says Detroit Police has a staffing problem and someone has to do the job.
"Plain and simple: we are that short-handed. The reported numbers say that with all the new hires we have 3,000 people - that is smoke and mirrors. The reality is who is actually answering calls for service?" Diaz said.
Right now Diaz says there are only 1600 Detroit Police Officers answering those calls.
Overtime is up because that is simply not enough - it's about half as many officers in patrolled the city in 2000.
On average, Detroit Police loses 18 officers per month. The problem is that many are retiring or leaving for better paying jobs at other police departments.
"We are not comparable to other law enforcement entities. We can say all day long Detroit is so large that it would be difficult to pay officers that much more - but when I have the mayor boasting a $53 million surplus, I find that hard to believe," Diaz said.
Chief James Craig has said there are valid reasons for why officers need to work overtime but it needs to be better managed.
Last January, a memo went out mandating citywide restrictions on overtime until July. Mayor Mike Duggan has increased DPD's budget by $8 million to hire another 140 or so officers.
Diaz says bringing men and women here to join the ranks isn't the problem - it's keeping them.
"I think it is pretty simple: if we really care about the citizens of Detroit, let's wok on public safety and retain our police officers," Diaz said.
Diaz says overtime will only increase if the city doesn't do more to retain officers.