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Budget Shortfall Impacts Sheriff, Police Departments

Posted: 5:45 PM, Aug 30, 2018
Updated: 2018-08-30 23:11:31Z

Nashville may be growing, but Metro's budget shortfall is forcing cuts in public safety.

The Metro Nashville Police Department and Davidson County Sheriff's Office are looking to cut money from their budgets.

Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall told NewsChannel 5 Investigates his office will no longer operate a mobile booking unit that helps get police officers back on the street more quickly after they make an arrest.

The department's two mobile units are out nearly every night, often on the edges of the county, so police officers don't have drive downtown to book a person.

Sheriff Hall said the normally lengthy booking process is cut down to just 13 minutes, meaning officers can get back on the street more quickly.

"To come downtown and book a person, I don't mean drive time, the process once you get there is over an hour," Sheriff Hall said.

But he's shutting down one of the units because his office has been ask to cut $636,300 from its budget.

​"I do find it frustrating because our city's got cranes and everything going up, but we're struggling with the daily essentials," Sheriff Hall said.

The President of the Fraternal Order of Police, James Smallwood, worries doing away with the booking unit will have an immediate impact for police.

"The result then becomes longer wait times, longer call response times. The result is not good for the city," Smallwood said.

During budget hearings earlier in 2018, Mayor Briley made it clear it would be a tough year and said he was not raising property taxes.

After the Metro Council approved the budget, departments received an e-mail with the subject line "target savings" from the Metro Finance Department which asked departments to come up with savings during the course of the year.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Sheriff Hall, "Will you be able to save $636,000?"

Sheriff Hall responded, "I wouldn't count on our $600,000 number."

He estimates cutting the mobile booking unit will save about $200,000 to $300,000.

The sheriff said he does not want to lay people off to achieve the full amount of savings requested.

But it's not just the sheriff's office being asked to cut.

The Metro Nashville Police Department has a "target savings" of nearly $2 million.

The Fraternal Order of Police president said he talked with Chief Steve Anderson who has not said specifically where the cuts will come from.

"$1.9 million is a big number for the police department, so we're concerned, but until we know exactly how it's going to hit us, we're not sure," Smallwood said.

"We're not keeping up with where we need to be," Smallwood continued. "We need more officers, we're very short staffed, and we need more vehicles."

With the city on the rise, he said the department should be getting more resources, not less.

​Chief Anderson told Mayor Briley during budget hearings in March the department was constantly hiring, but like many police departments across the country, it has been hard to attract qualified candidates.

​Officers believe the budget cuts could not come at a worse time, and Metro's budget shortfall is having real consequences.

"I've never been through a time where our city was doing so well, but our money is not," Sheriff Hall said.

The Mayor's office said the targeted savings represent one percent or less of each department's budget and the savings were part of what was passed by the Metro Council.

Chief Anderson sent the following statement:

"The police department’s goal is to save $1.9 million by June 30, 2019. I want to be clear that the hiring of new police officers is not impacted by the savings target. In past years, we have used attrition savings to fund special extra-duty initiatives at the discretion of precinct commanders. We have curtailed those initiatives at present as we continue to monitor the budget and work to accumulate savings as the fiscal year progresses. Obviously, public safety is paramount in the police department’s mission. We intend to achieve this savings without impacting our service to Nashville’s neighborhoods."