MATTOON, Ill. (WCIA) — Police Chief Jason Taylor says his department’s staffing is lower than it’s been in almost 50 years.
He believes that’s directly tied to the city employing too many firefighters. The police department has 35 police officers compared to 30 firefighters. For perspective, the police department handled more than 35,000 calls in 2018. The fire department handled 2,700.
“This city does not have a shortage of resources, in my view. We have a massive mis-allocation of resources. That is what I believe. We don’t have enough cops on the street, day in and day out. Four simply isn’t enough anymore. Our society and our city has changed,” said Taylor.
The city is negotiating with the fire department. They started in January 2018. They’re trying to find a way to cut spending. City leaders say they’re trying to find a way to keep the police department as is, but they may be forced to make cuts there, too.
Because of union contracts, the city is obligated to employee a minimum of 30 firefighters. Interim Fire Chief Kris Phipps said eight firefighters are required to be staffed during any shift. Those numbers are due to insurance, IDOT, and OSHA requirements.
However, the police department is only able to staff four police officers during any one shift. Chief Taylor says those are dangerously low numbers. He feels there should be five officers on any given shift to ensure safety.
“In order to continually field five officers, the staffing would need to increase to forty-two, a number we last employed in 2007,” said Taylor.