With a tight budget on the horizon for Naperville, the city formalized a reduction in its police force.
“As a citizen, I would gladly pay an additional fee on my garbage [and] leaf collection in order to provide for the safety and protection of the citizens of Naperville,” said Tracy Edwards, wife of one of the officers laid off in early November.
City Council members voted seven to two in favor of eliminating eight positions from the force—six officers and two vacant positions.
With these reductions, the city saves $861,000 per year, but still faces a budget deficit of as much as $4,000,000 in 2012.
“If we were closer to balancing the budget, I could see holding off on the layoffs and the personnel action,” said Naperville City Manager, Doug Krieger. “However, because our gap is so significant, we know that at a minimum, these steps would be necessary.”
Council members Robert Fieseler and Paul Hinterlong were the only two against the motion.
“Eliminating police officers is not the way to balance the budget. There are better places to cut,” said Fieseler.
The police union has filed suit in response to the layoffs, citing unfair labor practices. Tamara Cummings, general counsel for the Fraternal Order of Police, said that the reduction comes after the city agreed to a nine-percent wage increase for police over three years, retroactive to 2009.
“We thought it was ironic that less than a week after we voluntarily settled a contract, six officers were laid off,” said Cummings. “No other department in the city experienced layoffs, so we thought that was highly suspect.”
Depending on if the Fraternal Order of Police wins the lawsuit, the six officers could be brought back.
After the reduction, there are now 168 sworn officers serving the city. Officials say regardless of these cuts, Naperville will remain safe.
“If there was any question in our minds that this would have caused Naperville to become an unsafe town, we would not have done it,” said Krieger. “However, we are a low crime town and we’ll continue to be that way.”
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