Mayor makes public safety a budget priority

Posted By: Veronica Ortega

Mayor Chris Beutler announced he wants to add four new police officers, six firefighters, and a seventh ambulance to his budget proposal. This comes a day after outlining plans for the city’s transportation and infrastructure needs. He says public safety is one of his top priorities.

"The public has told us that public safety is the highest priority in our annual taking charge survey," Mayor Chris Beutler said.

Beutler says since taking office in 2007 he’s added five firefighters and seven officers increasing the police force by 2.2 percent, and LFR by 1.8, but in that time, the city has also grown in size by almost nine square miles, and the population has increased with more than 32,000 new residents.

"Citizens consistently tell us that a quick effective emergency response is city hall’s most important duty," Beutler said.

Beutler says last year LFR responded to more than 19,000 medical calls and the 7th ambulance will help.

Just hours after Lincolns ninth homicide of the year, the Beutler talked about the public’s perception of crime and although we remain below the national average it may become an increasing problem.

"There is simply, again, more area for each officer to cover stretching our resources and making backup for other officers in high risk situation more problematic," Beutler said.

The Mayor didn’t mention how they’re going to pay for the new employees, which generally cost about $80,000 per year. He says details will be released along with the complete proposal on Sunday.

Posted By: Channel 8 Eyewitness News

Mayor Chris Beutler announced today that his proposed budget for 2016-2018 includes funding for four new police officers and two added last year, six new firefighters and a new ambulance.  Beutler outlined his budget priorities in the second of three presentations and will present the budget to the City Council Monday, July 11.

Since taking office in 2007, the Beutler Administration has added five firefighters and seven police officers, increasing the Lincoln Police Department (LPD) force by 2.2 percent and Lincoln Fire and Rescue (LFR) staff by 1.8 percent.  But during that period, the City expanded over 8.7 square miles, a 10-percent increase, and Lincoln’s population grew by more than 32,000, a 13-percent increase.

“New police officers and firefighter paramedics will improve response times, help cover a growing City, relieve the workload on our stressed medic units, provide critically needed back up, and improve safety for our first responders,” Beutler said.   “Adding these staff will help ensure that we do not slip backwards as the City continues to grow.”

While police calls for service have declined, the Mayor said City growth stretches LPD resources and makes it more difficult to provide back-up for other officers in high-risk situations.   In addition to four new officers, the budget includes funding for two officers who were added last year without identifying a funding source.

LFR responded to more than 19,000 times medical calls in 2015, a 7.1-percent increase over 2014 and a 22.9-percent increase since 2010.  Adding six firefighter paramedics will allow the City to staff the new ambulance with two staff members on each of the three shifts.

“LPD and LFR have to manage new responsibilities with more area to cover and more people to serve,” Beutler said.  “Their work has also become more challenging, with greater levels of public scrutiny, the introduction of new medical practices, growing expectations surrounding evidence collection and processing, and the introduction of technology that, though incredibly valuable, increases the level of complexity of the work.”

Beutler said making public safety a priority in his budget reflects public opinion.  “Time and again, the public has told us that public safety is their highest priority,” he said.  “Our annual Taking Charge budget survey reflects that prioritization.  Citizens consistently tell us that a quick, effective emergency response is City Hall’s most important duty.”

Beutler said his proposed budget also includes funding for services that contribute to a safe and secure community – neighborhood swimming pools, library hours, the Pioneers Park Nature Center, health information and referral and in-home services for seniors.   He said other programs that contribute to residents’ safety and health include Community Learning Centers, the Stronger Safer Neighborhoods initiative, the graffiti prevention program, Aging Partners support services and the Health Department’s preventative health services. 

“Lincoln must continue to strive to be a complete community,” Beutler said.  “A strong  community policing concept combined with the services that create a high quality of life is an unbeatable combination for keep Lincoln safe and secure.”