DPD numbers at historic low; officials say help on the way

The Detroit Police Department is understaffed with numbers at the lowest in almost a century.

While homicides are up about 12 percent compared to a year ago, some city officials have plans to put more officers on the streets.

Police say they are getting the job done because crime overall, is down.

Eric Bates is a native Detroiter living on the city's west side at Larchmont and Ironwood 

He says he sees cops patrolling his neighborhood regularly - a feat  considering DPD has been bleeding police officers.

Mark Diaz leads Detrot's police union.

"We had over 2,000 just a few years ago," Diaz said. "Now we are down to 1,586 today. We are at the lowest numbers seen in anyone's lifetime."

He says uncertainty about Detroit's bankruptcy, benefits changes and low pay, has led officers to leave the department.

One of them turned in walking papers Thursday, he added.

"People are leaving and we've lost several officers since bankruptcy," Diaz said.

Police Chief James Craig says attrition is slowing down and the number of cops going back on the street is going up.

"I wouldn't say police officers are checking out of here everyday," Craig said. "There are officers looking at other opportunities."

"You talk about our response time, we've cut it over 50 percent. Our clearance rate to homicide investigations have improved dramatically. We have a 13 percent reduction - I'm talking violent and property crime." 

Lenox Van Norman lives just a few blocks away from the mass shooting on Dexter .

He says while there is a police presence in his neighborhood, there needs to be more.

"We need more cops in the neighborhood to be more safe around here," he said.

Craig and Mayor Mike Duggan say that will happen soon -  about 400 additional cops will be on the street by the end of 2016. About 150 of them will be new hires.

Also 250 desk job officers will be moved to street duty in 2016. 

"We have a goal that over the next year there will be over 400 officers moved to the field," Craig said.

Diaz said he is cautiously optimistic.

"I have no reason to call anyone a liar," he said. "But I think they are very optimistic numbers."
There is also a push to raise the average officer's salary of $14 an hour.

Others are banking on the mayor and police chief to make good on that promise for the good of their city.