Word is that as the Hartford City Council tries to deliver its budget package, they may be considering up to a three million dollar cut to the Hartford Police Department budget.
At last Monday nights homicide scene on Blue Hills Avenue, I spoke with Councilwoman Cynthia Jennings and she asked me what it was going to take to stop these senseless killings. My answer was simple, properly fund the police Department to be able to do the work that needs to be done.
The problem is that most Concilmembers don't really understand what policing a City like Hartford really entails. Sure they go out for a few hours to ride around, but they get the VIP tour where the reality is the furthest thing from what is actually happening.
They have the misunderstanding that pensions are driven by overtime. They aren't. Pensions are driven by "PJ's" , private duty jobs that are essentially the money officers make working at construction sites, concerts, XL center events and so on. Those used to be very lucrative in determining pension payouts, but as of the latest HPD Union Contract they play a much smaller role in the calculation.
I also explained to Councilwoman Jennings that the thugs on our streets have as good, if not better , intelligence networks when it comes to policing Hartford. They know that the shooting task force is probably half of what it was at this time last year. I'm not giving away any secret information here, it is a reality. Remember this time last year , it seemed as though the Task Force was in the news almost every day for gun seizures and arrests. They just don't have the bodies out there that they had last year.
And keep in mind that Mayor Caviar and his reckless financial spending have made it almost impossible for anyone on the state level to take us seriously if we ask for financial help for police spending or additional resources.
I had a conversation with Mayor Segarra several months ago and I told him he needed to keep in mind that the reduction in violent crime he loves talking about didn't happen by luck. It came about as a result of manpower and dollars directed at a serious problem. It didn't happen by luck.
It just seems odd that we can keep taxing the resources of the police department budget and still consider cutting even more. A special events budget that is basically money just thrown out the window. We keep allowing events that haven't even paid their bills for the previous year, some of them such as the West Indian Day parade that cost upwards of $55,000 for a one day event. How much of that could be used for coverage of "hot spot" areas that drive Hartford's crime.
The Council gave away a half a million dollar's in a land deal to benefit SAMA, a half a million dollars that probably would have been better allocated to the Police Department budget. But then again, SAMA delivers votes to our politicians, HPD doesn't.
The annual rent for the Pond House Cafe in Elizabeth Park is now paid to the Friends of Elizabeth Park rahter than to the City of Hartford to be used as revenue to fund things like the Police Department budget. But then again the Mayor's partner is on the Board of Directors of the Friends of Elizabeth Park, not HPD, so clearly the Friends need to be properly funded.
Hartford needs to reassess its priorities and pay attention to what really matters, and there can be no greater priority than providing a safe city and a realistic approach to crime.
Cut the dollars for all City take home cars, eliminate travel and frivolous expenditures collect the revenue the City is entitled to, essentially pay attention to business and run this City like a business, not a free for all Charity operation.
Under Cheif Rovella, it seems pretty clear that he is squeezing every budget dollar for maximum impact, realigning positions to be able to use officers for the maximum benefit to HPD and just being very budget conscious. Yes , a novel idea for a Department Head to actually pay attention to his budget, but any further cuts would be crippling.
To Councilwoman Jennings and the rest of the Hartford City Council , the first step in answering how do we stop the senseless violence, the answer is no more cuts to HPD.