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Home > Leadership > Mayor > CitiStat Buffalo > Archive CitiStat Buffalo In The News > 2006 Archives > Police Chief Warns Against Downsizing

Police Chief Warns Against Downsizing

Copyright 2006 The Buffalo News
Buffalo News (New York)
Byline:By Brian Meyer - News Staff Reporter

Buffalo's police commissioner says it would be a mistake to move forward with plans to shrink the size of the police force to 675 officers.

H. McCarthy Gipson said Friday he will push for independent experts to review police manpower.

"We're struggling right now to respond to the calls we receive," he said.

As Gipson made his debut in front of the city's accountability panel, he red-flagged concerns about police downsizing previously crafted by the Masiello administration and approved by the control board.

Gipson told the CitiStat panel "certain things have taken place" since the plan was hatched three years ago. Those changes include a spurt in new downtown housing and last summer's elimination of the public safety unit at the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority.

Gipson later told a reporter that Buffalo's police manpower level compared with its population is lower than the national average.

The Common Council has warned it will battle efforts by the control board to continue shrinking the police force. As of this week, the city had 753 officers, including 103 who are off duty due to work-related injuries. Police officials said they're working on new policies to reduce injured-on-duty figures.

Gipson also foreshadowed a major announcement that is expected within a week or so about new programs that will target violent crimes. One likely initiative will involve gun buybacks, he said.

Mayor Byron W. Brown noted that some past buybacks were ineffective because many people turned in nonfunctioning weapons for money. Gipson said the new program would accept only functioning guns.

The department also plans to create a task force on preventing violence, including crimes committed by gangs.

There have been 41 homicides in Buffalo this year. That's a 10 percent increase over the same period a year ago, said Gipson. Brown told law enforcers he doesn't want to see the trend continue.

In a rare show of emotion, the mayor said Buffalo must send a loud message to "killers" that they will be caught and jailed. "I want these damn criminals to be shaking in their freaking boots," Brown told Gipson and nearly a dozen other top law enforcers.

Police overtime also came onto CitiStat's radar screen, as panel members questioned a spike in overtime during a six-week period that began in late May. Police administrators attributed some of the overtime to an increase in the number of sick days taken by officers.

But they stressed there were also other factors, including the need for added patrols at special events such as the Allentown Arts Festival. Another factor involves the large number of officers who are off due to injuries. Brown said overtime that is racked up during murder probes and other key policing tasks can be justified.

"But when overtime is being driven up by sick time or vacations, these are things we have to look at and try to control," he said.

CitiStat officials also announced the city is checking into claims that some technicians in the department are violating the city's residency law.