Public safety has been one of the pillars of Elrick’s campaign for Detroit City Council since he entered the race in January calling for greater Opportunity, Safety and Accountability.
In 2001, there were more than 3,000 police officers patrolling our streets. Twenty years later, there are only 1,700.
Elrick has knocked on over 2,000 doors in the last 10 months, and he says NOT ONE of his
neighbors has called for defunding the police. “As a reporter who has covered Detroit police for more than two decades, and as the only candidate in District 4 who does not want to defund police,” said Elrick, “I have the experience and credibility necessary to propose this practical plan to increase safety in our neighborhoods.”
Elrick supports speed humps, but contends nothing is more effective at stopping speeders than a beat cop or traffic enforcement officer. These police also keep an eye on homes, businesses, and children, and become part of the fabric of our neighborhoods. But with so few officers —
and so many calls for service — there are not enough cops to provide real community policing.
“This lack of manpower is also why the city has turned to controversial technologies such as Green Light,” he explained. “There is no better deterrent to crime — or more effective crime fighter — than officers who know us and our neighborhoods.”
As the only candidate endorsed by the Detroit Police Officers Association and Detroit Police Lieutenants and Sergeants Association, Elrick has the support of the key constituencies needed to put his plan into action. Implementing even one of the 10 points in his plan would improve the
quality of life in neighborhoods and the caliber of the officers who bravely take an oath to serve and protect citizens.
We must increase pay and improve benefits to attract the best and brightest to the largest and most important law enforcement agency in Michigan. We should pay police like teachers, whose
compensation is tied to their training. Instead of losing out on some of the best qualified new officers to departments with higher starting salaries, we must reward applicants who come to the job with associate, bachelor’s or master’s degrees by starting them higher on the step scale
than an 18–year–old who comes to the job out of high school. We also need to increase tuition assistance for officers already on the job who want to expand their expertise and improve their skills for serving the public.
Our training must emphasize that police are guardians, not warriors. While officers must be trained on the judicious and proper use of force, we must also emphasize de–escalation and expand job classifications within the police department to bring on more civilian employees trained in social work and counseling. These employees must be available to help citizens as
well as officers who routinely deal with stressful and traumatizing situations that take a toll on their personal lives and ability to serve the public effectively.
Far too often, graduates of the Detroit police academy are hired away before they ever serve the people of Detroit. We can’t afford to subsidize training for suburban departments. Police academy graduates should be required to make a three– to five–year commitment to work in our city before leaving for another job. If an officer wants to leave before fulfilling their commitment,
they or their employer must pay a pro–rated portion of their training to the City of Detroit.
We should also offer retention bonuses to keep the cops we have invested in, which will reduce the amount spent to recruit new officers.
RECOGNITION AND REWARD
It’s time to recognize that mandatory overtime comes with a cost far beyond the bottom line.
Recruiting and retention problems mean our police department never fills all of the positions in its budget, forcing police to work mandatory overtime shifts. This takes a toll on our officers and on the city’s budget. It increases the burden on the city’s budget by paying officers 1.5 times
their hourly rate for mandatory overtime shifts. But just as important, it means overworked and under–appreciated officers are exposed to even more trauma than they would experience in an 8–hour shift and may not always be in the best state of mind when they interact with citizens.
Mandatory overtime also costs police the time they need to relax, recuperate, and recover before their next shift, putting a strain on officers deprived of the kind of time with family and friends that we all need to be at our best while interacting with others.
Additionally, research shows overtime results in excessive use of force complaints and other fatigue–related behaviors that drive up liability costs. Tired officers are more prone to use force and crash vehicles, putting police and the public at risk while costing taxpayers money that could be better used elsewhere.
Excessive force is not only detrimental to the relationship between police and the people they are sworn to serve and protect, it costs taxpayers millions of dollars annually in legal costs and lawsuit payouts. The city should create a bonus pool funded by reductions in use–of–force pay–outs. So, if police succeed in reducing costly lawsuits against the city, a portion of the savings
can be shared among department employees as both an incentive and a reward. This will save taxpayers money, improve police morale, as well as improve police–community relations — an
outcome you cannot put a price on.
Many of our best police are not patrolling our streets. Many choose to join specialty teams which offer prestige and the opportunity for increased compensation. One way to keep our best cops on the beat is to prioritize Field Training Officers (FTOs). FTOS should be the most valued officers in the department because they can share their street smarts with younger officers. This is especially important in a department that hires 18–year–olds and presents them with some of
the greatest challenges in Michigan. Greater compensation and perks should come with the position of FTO, along with a special training program to ensure that FTOs are properly trained to teach young officers.
PATHWAYS TO SUCCESS
As a department that hires 18–year–olds with limited life experience, then expects them to make the right calls in situations that would challenge far older and savvier individuals, we need to create a continuum for new officers to gain experience before they begin patrolling our streets.
Many sheriff departments require new hires to work as corrections officers before they hit the streets as deputies. New hires should be required to work as park rangers, environmental enforcement officers, and in other entry–level, low–stress law enforcement positions. These introductory positions will save taxpayers money while allowing new officers to grow on the job
and engage with the public in more social settings. Park rangers can also serve as docents and caretakers for our parks, keeping them clean and quiet while freeing up more experienced officers to work the streets and respond to more critical calls for service. This gradual pathway
to full police officer status should also allow new hires more time and incentives to seek additional training, such as an associate degree which will better prepare them to serve the public and allow them to move more quickly up the pay scale.
Few situations increase safety on our blocks and forge strong bonds between police and the public more than having a police officer living in the neighborhood. Since it is highly unlikely the
state will reverse its ban on residency requirements, the city should provide incentives for officers to live in Detroit, like offering them the right of first refusal to homes in the Detroit Land Bank inventory. The city should also work with banks and mortgage lenders to create programs
to assist first responders with homebuying and home repair assistance.
DRESS FOR SUCCESS
The city should provide uniform allowances to ensure our officers can comply with grooming standards required without subjecting them to a financial hardship. This would improve the morale of officers while relieving some of the pressure on their pocketbook to maintain the
required high standard of appearance.
RETIREE HEALTH CARE
Health care is a major concern of police who retire before they are eligible for Medicare. The State of Michigan could set up a pool for officers between 55 and 65, which could be funded with state contributions as well as an employer/employee contribution agreed upon by the city and police unions at the bargaining table.
INSURING OUR FUTURE
If agreed upon by the city and police unions, officers could have whole life insurance policies. The policies will have a cash value and could be paid for by officers and the city. Officers could claim the cash value of the policy upon retirement from the department, which will increase the likelihood officers stay with the department until retirement. If an officer is killed in the line of duty, their family will receive the policy benefit. If the officer leaves before retirement, the city receives the value of the policy allowing the city to recoup some of the costs invested in the officer.
ABOUT M.L. ELRICK
M.L. Elrick is running for City Council because he loves Detroit. He raised his family in the house he
bought on E. Outer Drive 22 years ago. He’s a former Fox 2 News, Detroit Free Press, and WDIV
investigative reporter who has been exposing public corruption in Michigan for over 20 years. A longtime
volunteer and community activist, Elrick’s committed to helping create job opportunities for his neighbors,
improving safety, and increasing accountability. For additional information, follow the campaign on
Facebook and Twitter at @ML4DETROIT or visit www.ML4DETROIT.com.