The Detroit Police Department, grappling with diminishing resources, is undergoing a reorganization to get more officers on the street and curb crime, after the city saw its bloodiest year in nearly two decades -- but the plan will mean the elimination of two units beginning in March.
An administrative message issued Monday by police administrators says the gang squad and tactical mobile unit will be eliminated March 4, when the first phase of the reorganization begins, the Free Press has learned.
The reorganization comes at a time when officers are being hit with a 10% pay cut and 12-hour workdays, and a new police chief still has not been chosen months after the last chief retired amid a sex scandal.
Detroit also had a soaring homicide rate in 2012, when there were 386 homicides, not including 25 deemed justifiable, officials have said. Last year, the rate was 54.6 homicides per 100,000 residents -- the highest since 1993, when the rate was 57.6 per 100,000 residents.
Neither Mayor Dave Bing nor Interim Police Chief Chester Logan would comment Tuesday, instead saying that officials would answer questions today during a news conference on crime statistics.
But Bing spokesman Anthony Neely said that "Chief Logan and the mayor are on the same page."
Detroit Police Officers Association President Mark Diaz said the reorganization is "designed to put more officers on the street."
He said the goal is to beef up patrols, but Diaz added that the gang squad and tactical mobile unit -- which operates like a roving precinct -- already have boots on the ground.
During a news conference earlier this month, Logan declined to give specifics about the department's staffing, saying that if he had 1,000 more officers, "I don't know what kind of impact that would have."
Diaz said he believes Logan misspoke, because "we definitely need more police officers. We need that thousand more police officers."
The message issued Monday, which noted that the second phase of the reorganization would be forthcoming, said a committee was formed and members were surveyed to determine the best way for the department to serve citizens.
It also listed the department's priorities: officer safety, preservation of life, serve citizens, arrest offenders and prevent and investigate crime.
The Rev. Jerome Warfield, chairman of the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners, said his understanding of the reorganization is that the functions of the gang squad and tactical mobile units are not being eliminated, but are being dispersed within precincts.
At a news conference earlier this month, city and police officials pledged to try to stem the city's violence. Today, Bing and police officials plan to do a deeper dive into 2012 crime statistics, as well as the restructuring plans, during the news briefing.
So far this year, however, there have been fewer killings than in early 2012, department statistics show. According to the department, there had been 16 homicides by Jan. 20, compared with 22 by that time last year.
Most of Detroit's killings are shootings, and gun violence in the city also was on the rise by the end of 2012. Last year saw 1,263 nonfatal shootings, up from 1,244 in 2011, officials have said.
Diaz said plans have been discussed to move more officers to homicide and have that section investigate all shootings, fatal or nonfatal. That detail was not outlined in Monday's message from administrators. A second administrative message said transfer requests to homicide, criminal investigations and traffic enforcement are due by Feb. 8.
As the department undergoes the restructuring, there's also still a piece of unfinished business: finding a new police chief.
Under the city charter, which was revised last year, the Board of Police Commissioners is charged with finding police chief candidates for the mayor to choose from, and his pick is subject to City Council approval.
In October, the board voted to begin negotiations with two firms to conduct the search, but in November, the mayor's office said there wasn't any money to do so.
Warfield said that roughly a month and a half ago, he was notified that there was money available, but it has never been allocated.
The city charter does not give a time frame in which a new chief has to be chosen, Warfield said.
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