Lawrence City Manager David Corliss was right to take a moderate approach to expanded police department spending in the budget plan he presented last week.
Rather than recommending that the city move forward on a new $30 million police facility and staff increases geared to adding 46 new officers in the next four years, Corliss put together a budget that calls for the city to hire three new police officers in the coming year. That obviously is far less than police officials were hoping for, but it’s a reasonable approach.
Corliss pointed out that he didn’t consider three officers to be sufficient to meet the department’s needs, but added, “I think it may be as much as the community and commissioners are willing to do next year. If they want to do more, that would be appropriate.”
Final budget decisions are, of course, up to the elected officials, and the large police funding request hadn’t garnered overwhelming support on the commission. With the number of other major projects currently on the city’s plate, it is prudent to take more time to consider major police expenditures.
As previously noted in this space, $42 million in staff and facility improvements for the Lawrence police would seem to indicate that the department is in dire condition, which it is not. City and police officials should step back and take a look at how these requests could be trimmed or staged to minimize their impact on the city budget. As also noted previously, the city owes it to taxpayers to fully explore the possibility of a consolidated city-county law enforcement agency before building a facility that essentially would close the door on that possibility for several decades.
Both city commissioners and the community fully support efforts to ensure that Lawrence has an effective and efficient police force. Adding three officers, as Corliss has recommended, is a step in that direction that can be followed up with additional study of how best to address the city’s future law enforcement needs.