While Dyer says no sworn officers have been laid off, community service officers and police cadets have been nearly eliminated from the force. Meaning longer wait times for police to respond, including answering 9-1-1 calls. Dyer says it may take 9 seconds to answer, instead of the previous 3 second average. That alarmed Chinatown activist Kathy Omachi. "A person could be shot, stabbed, raped, molested, one life that might have been saved might have been lost."
Council member Mike Dages indicated there were no easy answers to the problems caused by the expected cuts. He said: "Boy, I wish there was a solution, I wish there was something I could figure out."
The department's proposed $126 million budget is actually about $4 million higher than last year's amended budget. But pension and insurance costs have increased, leaving less money for personnel. The police budget is actually $10 million lower than it was in fiscal year 2008.
"That's why we have to ask that the citizens of Fresno during these difficult fiscal times be patient with our inability to provide the services we used to provide," said Chief Dyer.
Dyer noted even many of the departments video surveillance cameras, which were supposed to put more eyes on the street will be blind, because there won't be anyone to watch them. The Council is expected to look for additional funds to help the department, but at this point Acting City Council President Lee Brand said the city is trying to establish priorities.
Brand said, "It's essentially down to core services what are the most important things we can deliver to the city. Public safety is number one."
The city of Fresno is facing a more than $30 million budget deficit and all departments are facing cutbacks. Budget hearings continue next Monday. The city council is expected to vote on a final budget by June 25th.