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Consultants recommend major changes to Flint's police and fire departments

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

A consultant’s report says Flint police should stop responding to non-emergency 911 calls. The consultants say that would give police more time to investigate violent crimes in Flint. 

That’s just part of a report delivered by a Washington, D.C. consulting group to the Flint city council, mayor, emergency manager, as well as the city’s police and fire chiefs last night. 

The Center for Public Safety Management was hired by former Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley to study how the city’s police and fire departments could better use their scant resources.

Both departments have seen their budgets significantly decline as their workloads have increased.  

Consultant James E. McCabe told city council members last night that Flint has the highest violent crime rate he’s studied in six years.

“Staggering” is how McCabe describes the workload of 12 Flint police detectives trying to solve 13,000 criminal cases.   A “humanly impossible” task says McCabe.

The consultant’s report recommends Flint police should be more aggressive in dealing with violent crime.   To do that without hiring more officers, McCabe says Flint police should no longer respond to non-emergency 911 calls. He says instead, people involved in minor auto accidents, for example, could be given a different way to report the accident without having to tie up a police officer.  

Police Chief James Tolbert doesn’t want his officers to stop responding to things like auto accidents. But he does want to review the consultant’s report.

“Maybe we won’t go something as drastic as that.  Maybe we need to pare down on some of the things we’re doing,’ says Tolbert. 

Right now, it takes Flint police officers a half hour to respond to most 911 calls.  The report says it takes Flint police officers more than 20 minutes to respond to high priority calls, like a robbery in progress. 

Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Consultant Joe Pozzo makes a point during last night's presentation

The report also looked at Flint’s fire department.

Budget cuts have dwindled the department to just 78 firefighters who primarily work out of three fire stations.  

Consultant Joe Pozzo recommends the Flint fire department look at making personnel changes to deal with its issues. 

Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio

Flint Fire Chief David Cox says he’s already implemented “50%” of the recommendations in the report since he took over the department in 2013.     

City officials stressed that the consultant’s report is not the end of the process.  

Flint Emergency Manager Jerry Ambrose says the recommendations will need to be reviewed. But he says there are aspects of the report worth exploring if they could help Flint’s police and fire departments make better use of their limited budget dollars.   

“You know if you make a change here, if you make a change there, you can end up with more hours, more people on the ground,” says Ambrose. 

A report this week named the Flint Police Department as having the best Return On Investment for taxpayers’ dollars out of 110 U.S. cities.

The consultants delivered similar praise last night. 

Consultant James McCabe says Flint’s police department does a “phenomenal job” with limited resources.  

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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