The Detroit Police Officers Association is warning citizens and out-of-towners that they enter Detroit at their own risk, saying that the "grossly understaffed" and overworked police force cannot adequately protect the public in the increasingly violent city.
“Detroit is America’s most violent city, its homicide rate is the highest in the country and yet the Detroit Police Department is grossly understaffed,” DPOA Attorney Donato Iorio told WWJ over the weekend. “The DPOA believes that there is a war in Detroit, but there should be a war on crime, not a war on its officers.”
An analysis of the FBI's Uniform Crime Report data from 24/7 Wall St. indicates that Detroit actually has the second-highest violent crime rate in the country, behind Flint, Mich. Homicide increased by 11 percent in 2011, while robbery and aggravated assault are fourth- and second-highest in the country, respectively, according to the report.
This summer, city leaders cut the police department's 2012-13 budget by $75 million, to about $340 million, in an attempt to reduce the city's deficits, the Detroit Free Press reported. That forced the department to draw up a budget that will result in the loss of 380 positions through attrition and early retirement.
Iorio told WWJ hundreds of officers have left the department since the start of summer.
"Officers are leaving simply because they can’t afford to stay in Detroit and work 12-hour shifts for what they are getting paid," Iorio told WWJ. "These police officers are beyond demoralized. ... They can no longer afford to stay on the department and protect the public,” he said.
According to the DPOA's manifesto, Detroit police are the lowest paid of any big city and have to work in what Iorio describes as "deplorable, dangerous and war-like conditions." About a month ago, a judge refused to block the pay cuts for the officers.
"The state treasurer has threatened Detroit Police Officers with another 10% wage cut for going to court to protect their rights," the DPOA manifesto reads.
“The explosion in violent crime, the incredible spike in the number of homicides and for officers trying to work 12 hours in such deplorable, dangerous and war like conditions is simple untenable,” Iorio told WWJ.
Renee Monforton of the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau told NBC News that it’s unfortunate that the police union is using such tactics to move its agenda forward.
“It’s offering an unfair portrayal of a city that’s made a lot of strides in the past couple of years,” she said, noting that companies such as Quicken Loans have recently moved their headquarters and offices to downtown Detroit.
Getting people to come to Detroit can be a challenge, she said, but once visitors experience the city they are likely to return.
“People who come here are so pleasantly surprised that we see a lot of repeat visitations,” Monforton said.
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