After hours of discussion and weeks of community opposition, the Troy City Council Thursday night approved a budget transfer to hire six new community police officers.
By transferring more than $182,000 in the city budget, the Troy City Council voted 5 to 2 to hire six new officers, to bring the city’s community policing unit up to eight officers in the department of 131 sworn personnel.
The move to bring on more cops, backed by Democratic Mayor Patrick Madden, was highly controversial. City residents offered more than two hours of discussion against the proposal, with only two speaking in favor Thursday night – a Republican city council candidate and the head of the Troy Fire Department’s union.
The addition of community police officers was the last recommendation on the city’s Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative report. Other initiatives in the state-mandated PRRC report, including the formation of working groups on diversion and re-entry within one month, have already passed their deadline, though Mayor Madden pledged the city is working on all initiatives simultaneously.
Those who spoke up Thursday against the plan to expand the police department complained of ongoing mistrust between police and city residents, particularly among Black and brown Trojans.
“The trust is…you gotta build on something. You can’t just bring new people in be like, ‘OK, here. You gotta trust us some more,’ when we can’t even trust the ones that we got,” said resident Deanna Swenson.
Discussion between councilors on the proposal stretched over two hours.
City Councilor Ken Zalewski, a Democrat, said an investment in community police will not prevent other investments to improve the lives of residents.
“We can do multiple things. We should not see this as either ‘we pass this legislation or we invest in the community.’ We have to do both. We are doing both,” said Zalewski.
Democratic Councilor Anasha Cummings brought several amendments forward, including two that were successful. While the city moves to hire six officers to enter the police academy in time to get on the beat in January, a “pilot” initiative will gather data on three school resource officers who will leave the schools and engage in community policing over the summer, with a report on the program’s effectiveness in one patrol zone due to the council by October. Another amendment outlines additional training requirements.
Though offering up successful amendments, Cummings voted against the final version of the proposal. In his opposition, he cited cost. Adding the officers could cost taxpayers an additional $750,000 per year, once the officers reach their full pay, said Cummings.
“The average resident is going to be paying an extra $45 a year for this. And many will pay for than that. Maybe that’s worth it to folks, and I hope it provides the value to the residents that they’re paying for, but I am concerned at throwing more money at this problem rather than thinking of some new solutions,” said Cummings.
Also voting against the measure was Sue Steele. The Democrat said it was the outpouring of opposition from city residents – including a press conference earlier that day — that led to her decision. She addressed community advocates in her comments.
“You’ve got great information, you’ve got great passion, and that’s what makes our city great. Hang in there, we’re going to get better,” said Steele.
Casting the final vote in favor of the proposal was Republican City Council President Carmella Mantello, the daughter of a police officer. She said all on the force need to learn to communicate with city residents better, especially younger recruits, and said the additional officers is a positive step.
“This is all of us working together, and even the folks that voted ‘no’ tonight, we know you, your heart’s there. You want to see this work. All of us want to see ‘One Troy’ and I see this as a step in that direction.”