Police, Fire Dept. wait on academy decisions

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Two things we depend on in Baton Rouge, the police department and the fire department, could have academies this year, depending on the Metro Council.

Both agencies had academies last year, but whether they will add on more officers and firefighters is now up the Metro Council.

Mayor-President Kip Holden's budget supplement includes funding for both issues and much more - all it needs now is approval by the council.

Currently, the Baton Rouge Police Department is short by 60 officers and the fire department also needs about 60 firefighters to reach maximum allotment.

To reduce that shortage, both departments need academies this year.

"The number of officers you can put out on the streets has much of an effect as anything else you can do as a law enforcement agency," said Lt. Don Kelly with BRPD.

City police held a 20-week academy last year in August for about 30 officers. The department didn't hold one in 2010.   2009's academy produced about 20 officers.   So in the past two and a half years, the department has gained roughly 50 officers.

In the same amount of time though, it's lost nearly half that to officers retiring.   The other half is scheduled for retirement next year.

"We have a fairly significant amount number of retirements that are anticipated in 2013 and 2014 compared to what we've seen the last few years," said Lt. Kelly.

The fire department is no different.   Last year's academy gave them 31 firefighters.   They also did not have an academy in 2010.

"If we didn't have an academy, it would preclude us from catching up from that class that was missed in 2010," said Chief Ed Smith.

BRFD loses between 12 and 20 firefighters to retirement every year.

That's why Mayor-President Kip Holden is asking the metro council to approve an $11 million budget supplement.

Nearly $5 million for a 2012 police academy, officer overtime, new weapons, vehicles and increasing the retirement system.

A little more than $2.3 million is slotted for the fire department for an academy this year, new vehicles and equipment and to complete construction of a few fire stations.

If the council does not approve the budget supplement, academies this year may be impossible, which could take a toll on the officers, firefighters and citizens in the form of increased response time for police and overworked first responders.

"We just have fewer services we can provide," said Lt. Kelly.

"Anytime you have a shortage of work force, you working them longer, they're tired," said Chief Smith.

A public hearing on this budget supplement is set for this Wednesday before the Metro Council. Next Wednesday, the 27th will be final approval.

If given the ok, BRPD's academy will start July 30th and the fire department's on August 11th.

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