Editorial: Keep the police force staffedPublished 9:00am Thursday, June 7, 2012
We urge city leaders to return to their budgets and find the means to keep 28 sworn officers on staff. The people of Albert Lea deserve to have a quality police department with the proper staffing level, not one that stretches to cover its bases.
The city has two fewer police officers than it did two months ago. It plans to not fill two positions that came open because of two officers who retired.
As a result, there are 26 sworn officers. Just 10 years ago, there were 30.
We know the city is pinched as a result of receiving fewer and fewer state-aid funds every fiscal year. We know costs and expenses continue to rise during a time when tax increases are not wanted.
Yet, there must be a way for Albert Lea city leaders to avoid reducing the Albert Lea police force. We sure have the reasons:
Albert Lea has a rising poverty rate. More high-risk sex offenders than ever are residing here. The rising segments of elderly folks and grade-school children require special attention. Police officers have more duties, whether it is going to fire and ambulance calls or tending to the community policing efforts or dealing with animal control. They back up other officers, sheriff’s deputies and state troopers. Police now have defibrillators, Tasers and in-car cameras, which are prime examples of more training for more equipment and situations than ever in the history of law enforcement. (No longer is policing just a badge and gun.) Moreover, officers have mounting paperwork duties.
Domestic violence remains a sorrowful drain on this or any community, but the quick presence of officers often halts what could become a deadly situation. Domestic violence is often cited as the leading motive for homicides in the United States. Thirty percent of murders are committed by a family member.
And let’s not forget the drug traffic Albert Lea faces because of its position as a freeway crossroads community.
Just a few years ago, the union fought and won to hang on to sworn officers patrolling the streets of Albert Lea. The people came to the City Council meeting to show their widespread support for law enforcement. Albert Lea is a nice place to live in large part thanks to solid enforcement of local and state laws.
Reducing the force is taking this city in the wrong direction. It is time for leaders to have backbone and find the means to keep officers on the force.