Mayor presents 2018 budget
BATON ROUGE – While it's not a large increase in spending, city hall is working toward increasing the number of police in the city.
In a proposal set to be made before metro council members later Friday, Mayor Sharon Weston Broome will ask the legislative body to agree on her budget plan for next year – a near $1 billion spending plan for city-parish operations. The budget asks for 2.32% more than last year, and the small increase is also seen within the proposal for Baton Rouge Police.
The mayor suggests a $92,638,450 operational budget for the Baton Rouge Police Department. The 2018 figure is about 1% more than last year – when the previous administration spent $90,918,280 on the department.
Economists predict revenue in 2018 will be down, resulting in a budget that does not forecast much growth or increased spending.
As part of the budget, the mayor is backing two police academies. Each academy would be designed to train 35 cadets. In a September interview with WBRZ, the mayor said she wanted to bring the department up to a total of 750 officers.
"Keeping this community, keeping this parish safe is a top priority of mine," Broome said in the interview then. CLICK HERE for more.
In September, numbers released by the mayor's office showed there were 636 officers, down about 62 officers from being fully staffed – at 698.
Reaching a fully-staffed department has not been easy and finding an additional 100 or more police officers to expand the department to 750 will likely be more challenging. A previous WBRZ Investigative Unit report found there have been fewer applicants in each of the last four years. In fact, 2017 saw the fewest applicants since 2014 - only 140 applicants and six hires.
Baton Rouge is not alone, authorities said.
"Dallas, Houston, everybody they are seeing a major trend in the drop in law enforcement," the department's recruiter, Cpl. Rendy Richard said.
To try to combat that, the mayor will also be working to increase the starting pay for police officers. Starting pay is about $32,900 – lower, WBRZ learned, than similar or smaller departments.
> WATCH: Go through the police academy; See what it's like in THIS VIDEO
A specific number has not been revealed, but a Broome administration official said Friday, the numbers are still being crunched and promised increasing pay for new officers was a priority.
The mayor will appear before a special meeting of the Metro Council Friday but it's not unusual for the council members to rubber-stamp budget proposals.
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