County police Chief Robert Russell says proposed budget cuts this year might put a crimp in his department's ability to purchase equipment and train new officers, but an expanded patrol plan will be implemented next month.
Among the Police Department items in question after County Executive Robert R. Neall told department heads last month to cut their spending by 1.6 percent are 36 vacant police positions, nine civilian positions and 33 new patrol cars.
Neall broke the news to department heads during a County Council meeting last month, saying he needs the cuts to offset a $10 million budget shortage. The county expects to lose that much from a combination of reduced state aid and shrinking income tax revenue.
Russellsaid he has turned in a plan that would cut some items in the department and that he would meet with Neall on Tuesday to discuss those plans.
"Those things would be on the table," Russell said of the vacancies. "We have to kick around all those things. Anything that has not been purchased yet is on the table."
But Russell insisted that there will be no reduction in police service. He said the department needs to have 263 uniformed officers onthe streets to maintain a new patrol plan that is scheduled to go into effect Oct. 11. The department currently has about 259 officers, Russell said.
"There is no way we are going to back off from that number," he said. "The bottom line is answering calls for service."
For instance, no date has beenset for the the start of a new police academy class to fill the 36 vacancies, Russell said. But police officials had about 1,600 applicants and tested 1,000 to compile a list of eligible candidates.
"I know we will have the 263," he said. "My concern is what will happen to the peripheral services that we might have to put on hold."
Russell said that among the 1,000 people tested for police postions, there are several applicants who are already working for nearby police departments. Those officers would cost less in time and money to train.
"We don't need a new academy class for the beat realignment," he said.
Under the new plan, the Eastern District will be enlarged toinclude some of the territory that is now handled by officers in theWestern District, he said. Because of road construction along the Interstate 97, some areas of the Western District are easier to get to from the Eastern District.