FOP president warns of dangers of police cuts

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Cincinnati City Council Members heard directly from Cincinnati's police union president during Wednesday's council meeting.

Cincinnati's police union president says the current situation is a "totally different ballgame" than what she has seen in the past. Kathy Harrell says she was initially warned of a possibility of 149 cuts under the city's "Plan B".

It is going to be so unsafe for the officers and the citizens because we're not going to have officers that are going to be able to respond," Harrell told FOX19. "The chief has already made it very clear that he is going to have to make changes to what calls we even respond on anymore."

Harrell did not mince words when she addressed council Wednesday.

"If you lay off it will be obvious to citizens that this is not your priority, your pet projects are," she said during public comment.

Harrell says police officers have been threatened with layoffs since 2009. She says they have twice extended their contracts without wage increases. Harrell also noted that the recruit class scheduled for 2013 has been cancelled in light of the budget situation.

"When the rubber hits the road, even though people are threatening Plan B now, I don't think the votes will be for it because people know there's something better there," council member P.G. Sittenfeld said.

Sittenfeld and fellow councilman Chris Seelbach have called for a special session of council to get answers from the administration about other possible ways to save money and spare jobs.

"Why are you starting these threats of layoffs with police and fire which citizens rightly expect?" questioned Sittenfeld. "That's the foundation of the pyramid in city services."

"We're making cuts across the government. The police and fire cuts seem to be the only ones people are talking about," City Manager Milton Dohoney told FOX19. "Where we can save jobs, we will save them, but we have to implement enough cuts to make the budget balanced."

In the mean time, Harrell says her officers are losing faith council can find a compromise.

"Council is so at each other's throats and the Mayor, the City Manager, council … We've never seen anything like it," Harrell said. "To truly think you're going to get five of these council members together on a balanced budget on a restricted time frame, we're really nervous in seeing that we're going to save jobs."

"This is going to be a challenging process but I want to make sure we get the best possible outcome we can," Sittenfeld said. "It needs to start yesterday, today, not down the road."

"Council and the administration have dealt with tense situations before," Dohoney said. "So in terms of a working relationship, we have a working relationship. We simply have difficult items to deal with."

Dohoney says the administration is not opposed to using casino revenue to help balance the budget, an idea thrown around by some council members, but says it is no silver bullet.

"On its face it's simply not enough to close the gap by itself," he explained.

Dohoney says the administration is also looking into other cuts with the aid of the priority budgeting results, but officials note public safety makes up 70% of the city's operating budget.

"The mayor has said none of the council members have put forward something that he believes is going to work, however, they got elected, they've got ideas now you just need five or six of them to get together to decide what they're willing to cut instead of basic public services to the taxpayers of Cincinnati," Harrell urged.

Cincinnati's police union meets next Wednesday with the city's Human Resources department to talk more specifically about the process for layoffs and the number of cuts they could be facing. The petition signatures for the parking plan will be turned in to City Hall Thursday afternoon.

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