To the chagrin of Miami administrators, the understaffed police department is expected to blow its overtime budget by $3.7 million this year as high turnover and slow hiring have forced patrol officers to work expensive extra shifts, the Miami Herald reports. At the core of the discussion is basic crime-fighting philosophy: Is the public better served with more officers working on street patrol, or in less-visible but important tactical units? Over the past two years, Police Chief Miguel Exposito has transferred between 130 and 140 patrol officers to specialized units that target more-sophisticated criminals — robbers, drug dealers, and gang members among them. The chief says the move has made Miami safer, as hardened criminals have been sent to prison and more than 1,000 guns have been confiscated.
Keeping more officers in patrol units would “put presence in the street and save money, but it's not going to get the job done,” the chief says. “All we have are officers writing reports all day, and there's nothing being done to get the criminals off the street.'' There are down sides to beefing up the tactical units at the expense of patrol. City Manager Johnny Martinez points to a less-visible police presence, which residents frequently complain about. And because supervisors must shuffle patrol officers to fill 24-hour shifts, the department is projected to spend $6.2 million in overtime this year — more than twice as much as the $2.5 million that had been budgeted.