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Some may question how the city can absorb such drastic cuts, laying off 57 police officers and 47 firefighters. According to Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, there's no doubt the need is there:
"Police and fire protection and maintenance of our roads are paramount. Yet, these are services most at risk in the year ahead because we literally have nowhere else to turn."
News Ten looked at other cities in Michigan, compared to Lansing to see how they fare with the number of uniformed police officers per thousand people. Grand Rapids, the second largest police department in the state has 1.6 officers. Flint, with a population close to Lansing's has 1.3 officers, Ann Arbor has 1.4 and Macomb County's Sterling Heights has 1.2. As it stands now, Lansing has 1.8 officers per thousand people. When you factor in the proposed 57 cuts, that number drops down to 1.4. So, the reality of the data is, right now, the department is operating with more than larger cities.*
Sources we talked to say there are a lot of variables to take into account when you look into which officers you cut and which you keep. There's call volume, crime rate, response time, coverage area. And something that makes Lansing unique is that the city's population swells Monday through Friday because of the state government jobs.
Lansing Police Chief Teresa Szymanski says while Lansing could deal with the cuts, the community-oriented focus, would be gone.
"We would lose officers in uniform patrol, we would lose detectives assigned to the investigations bureau, we stand to lose our motorcycle unit, which is our traffic unit, community police officers, neighborhood watch officers, school resource officers and narcotics investigations," said Chief Szymanski. "If I have to decide whether to send a police officer on a 9-1-1 call or have an officer to stay in the schools, I have to choose to have the officer answer the 9-1-1 calls. They are very difficult choices."
Mayor Bernero has urged the city to consider passing the 4-mill property tax increase to save public safety and reinstate at least half of the staff that would be cut.
"We've already made all the easy cuts and many of the hard ones, " said Mayor Bernero. "But the hardest of all will happen in this budget if the millage is not approved and we lose fully half of our state shared revenue."
These are tough cuts that the citizens of Lansing need to decide if they can live without.
*The data is derived from the current number of uniformed officers, out of the total population, multiplied by 1,000. Initial reports from Lansing, indicated the number of uniformed officers was 250. That number is actually 219. That changed our data and our initial reports to 1.4 (with cuts) from 1.8.