Syracuse, N.Y. — It's not a new conversation for Syracuse Police, but we’re getting new insight on the realities of the staffing issues at the department. Eight details dedicated to specific crime fighting missions in the community are now gone. What's to blame, and what does it mean for the safety of you and your family? Our team listened to a recent city council Public Safety Committee meeting and heard top brass from SPD share the big challenges they're facing. Chief Joe Cecile says the level of work his officers are doing is astonishing, but it would be even better if there were at least 100 more of them.
"Our current number is 381, but 19 of those are in the academy, so the number is really 362. Our funded number is 423. So we are way down on police officers," explained Chief Cecile. Those officers will graduate in August but still need to be trained. There’s another class starts up in July. Right now, the workload for the current force is big. " These officers have very little time to do proactive work. They're running from call to call to call," said Cecile.
"You lose both the response, and you lose kind of the knowledge of who's involved in that kind of thing as well," said Syracuse Police Deputy Chief Derek McGork at the May 25th committee meeting at City Hall.
McGork revealed eight units are no longer active. They are: the vice unit, which handled calls for loitering, prostitution and other quality of life issues, the neighborhood anti-crime unit. The forgery and financial crimes unit, the proactive policing unit called "selective enforcement." Also, units handling domestic violence, computer forensics, stolen vehicles, and cold cases. Instead, the officers SPD does have absorb all the work. Chief Cecile said "the work is astonishing. I am in awe of the work that's being done out there. But you're correct, because of attrition...and it's not a new conversation, I've seen it time and time again over my 37 year career. This I believe is the lowest we've been."
"The disappointing part of it, and we're trying to work our best, is at the end of every shift there's 20 calls waiting to be dispatched. Most of those are quality of life calls," explained Cecile.
Chief Cecile wants to reassure the community that despite this challenge, public safety remains their number one goal. He says luckily there are people who call when they see crime happening and there are more than 500 cameras around the city to help catch it too.