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In wake of cuts, many Detroit police officers wonder about department's future

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Rumors are running rampant in the Detroit Police Department after the city imposed a pay cut and changes to work rules on most officers.

That’s according to officers who spoke privately about what those changes will do to the city’s long-troubled police force.

Just before Mayor Dave Bing imposed the new contract terms, including a 10 percent pay cut, Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee Jr. praised his officers for their dedication.

“They could do other things," Godbee said. "Nobody has checked it in, nobody has hung up their badge and gun at the door.”

But many officers are looking to do just that, according officers behind the scenes.

One detective-sergeant says figuring a way out of the department is a daily topic of conversation among officers.

In the meantime, the officer says he fears a shortage of police will become a “safety issue” as officers use up sick time and look for other work.

The sergeant says there's a widespread sense that officers would have accepted the 10 percent pay cut, but the whole package has them up in arms. Many officers are rebelling against the idea of working 10 or 12 hour shifts, something that’s widely expected to happen, now that work rule stipulations have been thrown out along with the previous contracts.

Godbee acknowledges that things are tough for his officers. But he says with serious budget constraints, work rule flexibility is key to running the department.

“So having the flexibility to look at those type of work rules changes, and implement [them], are things that are significant for me to be able to deliver police service as we move forward," Godbee said.

Many Detroit police officers, however, strongly believe that this kind of departmental disintegration is the end game.

They think that given the city's ongoing fiscal crisis, shrinking population, and a state-level push for municipal consolidation, the department will eventually be dissolved, and replaced by a wider-ranging, metropolitan police authority.

In the meantime, officers will hold a rally to protest the imposed contract terms this Thursday.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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