The Oklahoma City Fraternal Order of Police filed a grievance against the Oklahoma City Police Department this month.
It said the department failed to maintain minimum staffing requirements, which could compromise public safety and officer safety, it claims.
According to the grievance letter, Oklahoma City police did not maintain their minimum staffing requirements 30 times within a recent one month period.
“You can't always meet minimum staffing,” said Oklahoma City police Chief Bill Citty during a Monday afternoon news conference.
Citty addressed the grievance cited in the letter received by his department last week. The letter was sent by the Oklahoma City FOP President John George.
Citty said he looked at the numbers provided by the FOP Lodge 123, and said the department fell short about 8 percent of the time during the one month period from March 2 to April 2, and that 92 percent of the time they were meeting the minimum requirements.
Citty said the shortages, many times, would be by only one officer on any given shift.
“Right now, we're trying to contain costs,” said Citty. “We have been trying to contain costs for a while.”
But the FOP president says the grievance is only a small part of the problem, George cites the critical need for more officers being the biggest need that has to be met in order to keep these staffing shortages from happening.
“But that minimum should always be met because that's what's safe and that is how we are going to best serve our citizens,” said George.
Citty said his department staffing of officers does not fall under their contractual agreement with FOP and does not have a specific number they have to meet each day. But Citty said the department does try to fill the gaps when staffing falls short.
“Some of those alternatives are swapping officers from other divisions that are overstaffed in relation to minimum staffing,” said Citty.
Citty said they also turn to overtime at times, but said overtime costs are high and they try to limit it in order to keep within budget.
Both the FOP president and the police chief do agree on one thing; the need for more officers.
“The City cannot continue to function the way it does just based on sales tax,” said Citty. “There's got to be other ways to manage and other ways to fund that.”
George said for years, city leaders have talked about the need for more officers on the street, up to 200 more, but said that nothing has been done to create a solution to meet that need.
That is part of what has led to these minimum staffing requirements falling short. George said back in the late 1980's, there was a 3/4 cent sales tax petition for public safety that helped fund and hire 200 more officers then. George said something like that has to be done now.
“If we can get one quarter of a penny of the next sales tax the continuation of the next penny that brings in 2 to 27 million more to hire the 200 officers we desperately need,” said George.