WARREN City nears hiring goal for police under tax

The original tax passed in 2001 expires at the end of 2004.
WARREN -- Mayor Michael J. O'Brien hopes to hire eight new police officers before the 0.5 percent income tax appears on the March primary ballot for renewal.
Hiring eight new officers would bring the department to 84 officers, the number pledged to citizens when the income tax for the police and fire departments passed in 2001.
The city's civil service commission gave the administration a new list of potential officers earlier this month, and the police department is conducting background checks.
"Within days of the background checks and drug testing being completed, we intend to hire new officers," O'Brien said.
He's shooting for mid-February.
The city had exhausted its previous list of potential candidates; police hiring halted at that point.
Meeting the mid-February hiring goal also would mean the new cops would be in uniform before voters would be asked to renew the income tax for another three years.
The tax passed in 2001 expires at the end of this year.
Impact of tax
Putting policemen on the streets to protect the city and buying fire equipment to ensure the safety of people and property was what the income tax was intended to do, the mayor said.
But he stressed that the loss of that estimated $5 million would affect all city departments.
If the issue fails and layoffs are required, police and firefighters with more seniority could bump into jobs occupied by members of the Association of Federal, State, County and Municipal Employees. That includes employees in operations, sewer, water, sanitation and other departments.
"The last time we had layoffs, a police officer was my garbage man," O'Brien said.
Having people perform duties with which they are unfamiliar can affect the quality of service.
A tax failure also would require shifting money across city departments to make up for loss of the funds.
Campaigning for passage
Both O'Brien and William "Doug" Franklin, safety-service director, are working on the campaign to pass the tax, O'Brien said.
"The mayor and the safety director before were asked to take a back seat," he said. "We're personally reaching out to all residents of the community."
That includes the black community, from which many of the complaints of alleged brutality and illegal strip searches by the police department were generated.
Campaign supporters have developed a speakers bureau to travel to different parts of the city, informing residents of the importance of tax passage.
"There's a new administration and a spirit of cooperation in the entire city that includes all sections of the city, including the black community," O'Brien said.