Regardless of whether Mesa, Az., voters approve a $170 million public safety and street project bond on Tuesday, Police Chief George Gascón warns that his department is charging toward financial pain that could include cutting back the SWAT team and motorcycle patrols, reports the Arizona Republic. Police and union representatives have met regularly to determine how to best shrink the department’s $162.2 million 2008-09 budget $5 million to $15 million, Gascón said. Depending on how deep those budget will cuts run, layoffs are possible.
In addition to halting overtime, the department has frozen open positions and has backed away from plans to purchase 25 vehicles. Officials are discussing whether to put full-time SWAT officers on part-time SWAT and part-time patrol duty. Police union officials agree cuts are needed, but disagree on changes to SWAT. “Getting rid of a full-time SWAT team is drastic,” said Fabian Cota, president of the Mesa Police Association, a union. “If you can’t call on SWAT when you need them because they’re now part-time, and are no longer well-trained because they’re part-time, you are going to have a (less safe) city.”