Ann Arbor residents who believe that the solution to school zone safety and general traffic enforcement concerns is solvable by more Ann Arbor Police Department manpower will have to wait a little longer for their preferred solution.
A recent budgetary amendment that would have added 2 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) positions to the department, while eschewing increases to the city government’s administrative staffing, was put in check by the reality on the ground within the department as reported by AAPD Chief Jim Baird.
“Even if those (2 FTE’s) were granted to me today, I could not staff our police department above our base level anyway,” Baird told the council, particularly Council-persons Jane Lumm and Jack Eaton, as well as Sumi Kailasapathy who added herself as a co-sponsor during the board’s proceedings.
Lumm led the way in arguing for the Fiscal Year 2018 budget amendment by pointing to the fact that the current staff of 122 AAPD officers is down 37 positions from staffing levels in 2005: nearly a quarter down between then and now.
“With this budget proposal adding 11 FTE’s which on top of the eight we added last year represents 19 new city employees with none … zero added to police,” Lumm explained. “With this new budget (amendment) proposal we are adding five new general fund positions that would be adding over a half million dollars in recurring costs to the general fund.”
Some of the newest administrative positions will include a Chief of Staff for City Administrator Howard Lazarus, as well as a Board and Commissions Coordinators, and a Human Resources Seasonal Hiring Specialist.
The proposed budget change would have eliminated the Chief of Staff post saving $87,000 in Fiscal Year 2018 and $175,000 annual thereafter, with the police position creation adding $87,000 to public safety funding for that purpose in Fiscal Year 2018 and $166,552 annually for those posts from there on.
Lumm pointed to the A2SafeTransport feedback indicating a need for improved pedestrian safety and traffic enforcement concentrated at Ann Arbor schools based on feedback garnered through surveys, questionnaires, and direct contact with building principals, Parent Teacher Organization representatives, and parents.
After Baird’s statements, the measure was defeated with all council-persons but the amendment sponsors voting not to give the chief something he wouldn’t be able to utilize anyway due to administrative realities within the department.
“With the budget that you’re discussing right now, by the time that budget cycle ends I have 21 sworn officers that could retire in that timeframe,” Baird explained.
While he doesn’t expect to completely shed all retirement candidates in one year, half are expected to leave upon eligibility and the other half could go the following year with some new candidates qualifying to retire as well in the meantime.
“I can only onboard six people at a time due to the capacity I have in the (training) program,” Baird added.
Several of the council-persons who quashed the 2 FTE amendment pointed to a need to allow public safety studies that are currently underway to be completed and come back to the city administration and council for evaluation. Some thought that shifts in management of existing personnel and resources within the department could address some of the ongoing public safety concerns, particularly after a study by Chicago-consulting firm Hillard Heintze LLC is completed after council approved it earlier this year.
Council-person Chuck Warpehoski said that his interactions with Hillard Heintze indicated that the current number of dedicated AAPD traffic offciers was already high for a community of Ann Arbor’s size and population density.
“I think the problem we’re facing is less a total number of officers problem than it is how do we create a deployment model that helps ensure that we’re getting the kind of safety and patrolling when we need it, where we need it,” Warpehoski explained.
He added that the department needed to evaluate whether certain officers are dedicated to traffic safety enforcement or if it’s a varying degree of every officer’s total load of responsibility when out on the road.
Two years ago the city officials shifted the department’s focus from “hot spot” intersections deemed such by incident statistics to a model based on number of real-world complaints from residents.
Warpehoski questioned whether that was the best course of action, noting a decline in citations written. He said that the city and police department should consider a “more adaptive” model that exists somewhere in the middle, taking pedestrian counts and proximity to schools and daycares on a corridor-wide basis.
Council-person Julie Grand also noted the Changing Driver Behavior study being conducted this summer, which will yield more information from which to craft a meaningful change to the AAPD management model.
“That’s going to help us better understand how we can have drivers comply with our rules and that is going to keep cyclists and pedestrians safe,” Grand said. “There will be an enforcement effort accompanying it and I think it will help us better align our goals for traffic enforcement going forward.
Council-person Graydon Krapohl called for the city to look forward to the next five years when planning tweaks to the police department to address pressing issues, rather than making decisions based on backward-facing assessments of past staffing levels.
“Speeding is behavior … maybe we need social workers in our police department,” he said.
Krapohl said he’d like to see the Chief of Staff position remain, regardless of the police staffing questions.
“We’ve lost capacity in our staff to do things after 10 years” of significant cuts since the 2008 financial collapse.
“We have very talented people and a talented organization, but they all have specialties and we need to make sure they’ve coordinated properly across the spectrum so they’re delivering the services that meets our residents needs and expectations,” Krapohl said.
Zachary Ackerman pointed out that Lazarus has 11 direct reports from sub-entities of the larger Ann Arbor city government that he has to deal with without Chief of Staff support.
“It creates products for the people they’re meant to serve that aren’t what they could be,” Ackerman said of those 11 units.
Mayor Christopher Taylor said he expected the Chief of Staff post to have readily apparent benefits for the entire operation of Ann Arbor’s city government.
“I think a chief of staff for Lazarus is going to have benefits, efficiencies throughout our orgnization that is going to be a real and tangible good,” he added.
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