Playing to Mayor Karl Dean's emphasis on reducing crime, two Metro agencies on that front line said Tuesday the proposed 7.5 percent budget cuts to their departments are not feasible.
Sheriff Daron Hall said a 1 to 2 percent cut for his office was “reasonable,” while Metro police Chief Ronal Serpas said his department needs eight new laboratory supervisors and to continue to move forward with plans for two new precincts in Madison and South Nashville.
After Dean said, “Zero is not an option,” Hall said his office could live with more reasonable cuts depending on what happens across the street with the police department.
The sheriff said a 7.5 percent reduction would shave $4.4 million from his budget and cost 87 positions. That would mean closing a smaller jail facility or two and transferring inmates to other facilities, which would cost more in the long run.
But Hall also said his office is directly linked to what happens with the police department. If more cops hit the streets, more bad guys end up in jail and in the care of the Sheriff’s Office.
With federal grants paying salaries and benefits for the first three years, the police department is set to add 50 more officers now in the training academy.
A 7.5 percent cut in the police budget would translate to laying off 92 police officers, Serpas said, “a devastating blow” to progress made in crime reduction during recent years.
“But our department and your administration have always looked to the future,” Serpas said, adding that the department needs to hire the eight lab supervisors to begin the accreditation process for the new West Precinct Forensic Crime Laboratory, expected to open in the fall of 2011.
“I think you know where I stand,” Dean answered, before wrapping up another department hearing with a common phrase this year.
“It’s a tough budget year," he said. "We’ll do the best we can.”