As the city of Springfield, Missouri, deals with a shortage of officers and rising crime, city leaders determine what to do with leftover money.
The Springfield Police Department’s officer shortage has led to a leftover salary surplus of $1.5 million dollars at the end of the fiscal year. City leaders argued back and forth about whether the money should go back to the department or to the city’s general revenue. Councilman Craig Hosmer and Mayor Ken McClure were the two combatants.
Councilman Hosmer was adamant that the money should be returned to the police department for the following fiscal year in light of the city’s rising crime and fewer officers.
“It just seems like we’re fighting the two-edged battle, we’ve got insufficient numbers of officers, we’ve got rising crime. It’s a bad combination,” Hosmer said.
According to KY3, Hosmer has been outspoken about policing issues, citing the rising crime, officer shortages, mental health, recruitment and drug and alcohol issues.
“This council has made a budgetary commitment to have 368 sworn officers in the city of Springfield, protecting the citizens of Springfield. To have that money go back into the general revenue when we know we are chronically short on police officers, we know that we’ve got a rising level of crime, we know we’ve got problems that officers deal with daily, on mental health issues, alcohol and drug issues, recruitment, retention,” he said.
Mayor McClure answered that the leftover surplus must go back into the general revenue to cover other expenses as needed.
“We will allocate the funds based on the best recommendations and best information that we have,” he said. “To keep an allocated fund within a particular department is bad budgeting. It always has been, and always will be.”
Hosmer replied, “And to have Springfield police officers chronically shorted the number of officers that we need to protect our streets is bad public policy.”
City leaders noted that while SPD works on its recruitment efforts, other departments may require funding in the meantime. City Manager Jason Gage said that recruitment will be gradual.
“We will not eliminate all the vacancies we have in one year,” Gage said. “We know that. If we’re really successful we would knock it down in half. I’d feel really good about that.”
Gage suggested that the city could explore offering one-time costs to help provide resources to police without breaking with the convention of directing surpluses to the general fund.
He also said he expects to have a plan on police shortages that he will discuss with the mayor by the end of the week.