SIKESTON - Drew Juden, director of the Department of Public Safety, discussed staffing levels for his department "and some concerns we have" during the City Council's special briefing session today.
Juden said his department is again becoming a "training camp" for other law enforcement agencies and is facing resignations from DPS and rumors of officers leaving for other departments weekly.
Without the competitive salaries and benefits, "we don't have anything to offer," Juden said. He noted his department has cut benefits and offered no cost-of-living increases in pay, essentially resulting in a 10-15 percent pay cut for DPS employees. "We have to somehow ... give them some hope."
While he said he understands the city is having budget problems, "we can't reduce our workload," Juden said. "The work's still going to be there."
Juden said he has already shut down the city's D.A.R.E. and School Resource Officer program. His only options now are to reduce detectives in favor of patrolmen "or start closing fire stations."
He added that every time he loses someone, he loses both a police officer and a fireman.
While he has received lots of praise lately for DPS's performance, "I can't do the job without the resources," Juden said. He said the focus must either be on safety or how much money the city save.
"No one here wants to cut Public Safety, so let's figure out how to fund them," said Mayor Mike Marshall.
Sue Rogers, council member, said losing officers and rehiring new ones instead of retaining existing officers costs the city additional money for training, and expressed concerns about criminal elements returning if DPS is weakened.
In other business during the briefing session Council heard the first reading of the bill adopting the Fiscal Year 2004 budget.
"We're still in the public meeting phase," said City Manager Doug Friend.
The budget is slated for a second reading and adoption at the next regular session June 9.
Friend invited anyone with questions about the budget to "call us or come out and visit."
Council also heard the first reading of the bill adopting the Fiscal Year 2004 staffing and compensation, also slated for final action at the June 9 session.
Friend said staffing levels reflect a reduction of 10 full-time city positions: five Public Safety positions, three in the Department of Public Works, and two general government jobs.
All of these positions to be eliminated are already vacant, Friend said.