Sgt. Debbie Jackson, a 19-year Detroit police veteran, worries about what will happen when the department lays off up to 600 officers this month, the Detroit News reports. “It’s going to be felt in the neighborhoods — response time is going to suffer,” said Jackson. Detroit officers and residents are bracing for the fallout as the city struggles to bridge a $54 million budget gap through layoffs that are expected to affect everything from the number of neighborhood patrols to traffic tickets. The downsizing is another blow to a department already constricted by federal agreements designed to ensure that it treats suspects and prisoners fairly.
There may be fewer officers on patrol in the city, which has one of the highest murder rates in the nation — 384 homicides last year. “It’s going to be a city of chaos,” said Paul Stewart of the Detroit Police Officers Association. Last month, a federal monitor said the city has made little progress since it signed agreements in 2003 to end a 30-month federal investigation that found widespread problems in the way officers used force, detained prisoners, and questioned witnesses. The police department has committed to spending tens of millions of dollars to build a holding facility by April 2007. Cities across the country, such as Denver and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., are recruiting heavily in Detroit after learning of the impending layoffs.