Syracuse Police Chief: 'We indeed need more police officers'

Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler speaks during a news conference on October 12, 2017

Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler answered several questions cautiously during a news conference Thursday, citing an ongoing investigation and need to collect all the facts. When asked about the number of officers working for the city's police department, however, his reply was unambiguous.

"We indeed need more police officers," the 28-year veteran of department, who plans to retire at the end of this year, said when we asked him about the number of officers in his department. His statement came as he discussed the investigation and resulting arrests for the deaths of two men in an apartment last month, which a witness described as "a slaughter." As he spoke, his officers were simultaneously investigating a shots fired incident outside one of the city's elementary schools.

The statement comes amid an ongoing debate about police staffing, sparked by the shooting of a man on the Northside on October 3.

The man had called 911 looking for help before the shooting, but police didn't respond until after he was shot. Outraged family and friends of the man believe the shooting could have been prevented if police had responded to the first call for help; when questioned about the issue during a Common Council meeting last week, Deputy Police Chief Joseph Cecile admitted police don't respond to all calls and said there aren't enough officers to do so.

According to the mayor's office, the city currently has 420 officers and funding to pay for up to 60 more positions. However, the mayor's office says there are no plans to hire additional officers at this time, but hasn't said why. This issue has resulted in a debate within the community and between the four candidates hoping to take over as mayor in 2018.

The city's police chief made his view on the matter clear Thursday.

"There's more to policing than detectives investigating a murder. The goal is to create an environment where it's safe - where you don't have any murders or you have a minimal amount of crime," Fowler said. "That is the goal and we indeed need more police officers in order to provide that environment for our community."

FBI crime data dating back to 1995 shows the rate of violent crimes (defined as homicides, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults) in Syracuse hit a new low in 2016, however the year also saw the most homicides (30) of any year on record.

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