BRADENTON — Bradenton council members told the city police chief and other department heads Wednesday they have to do more with less.
At a workshop on reviewing next year’s budget figures, Councilman Bemis Smith brought up Police Chief Michael Radzilowski’s portrayal of a reduced force as being “critically short” in a Bradenton Herald article.
Bemis said he appreciated the progress the department has made in reducing the crime, but questioned how the chief can say the city is at risk when the crime rate was going down with the same number of police officers.
Radzilowski said he is authorized to have 122 officers, but with last year’s hiring freeze and four officers assigned as school resource officers, he is operating with a force of 113.
“That’s just not enough to do the increased amount of work,” he said.
Other council members said they have not been getting any calls from residents asking for their taxes to be raised, and with the economic conditions the city is experiencing there is just less revenue.
Councilwoman Marianne Barnebey said she would have appreciated having a discussion with the police chief before she read about his stance in the newspaper.
“I’m available to meet with you any time you ask,” Barnebey said.
In the Herald story, Radzilowski said maintaining the police force at the current level will not be enough to adequately patrol the city.
Councilman Gene Gallo told Radzilowski he may “have to think out of the box.”
“My concern about staffing is the same as yours,” Gallo said, “but the pot of money has a lid with several locks.”
He recommended the chief work out an agreement with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office to help answer some of the calls in the far reaches of the city limits.
Radzilowski said his department and the sheriff’s office have always worked together, but the sheriff’s office is under the same workload strains as his department.
In response to the council’s questioning of his statement in the newspaper article, the chief said what makes the situation critical was a staffing level of 113.
He said with his 40 years experience in law enforcement, he knows that is not enough officers for Bradenton.
And as far as crime rates being down in the city, Radzilowski said those figures indicate only the top level of crimes.
“The crime rate does not reflect the workload of my officers,” he said.
The chief said his officers are responding to more public nuisance, drug sale and domestic calls, and similar types of complaints.
A federal stimulus program grant will provide $1.1 million to the department, allowing the chief to retain six officers.
Also, the council said Wednesday all departments can fill the positions that were left vacant throughout this year’s budget, including three police officers.