HUNTINGTON BEACH : City Officials Weigh Costs of More Police

The city has an opportunity to accept $450,000 over the next three years from the federal government to hire six new police officers.

But there's a catch.

Police Chief Ronald E. Lowenberg said it costs about $80,000 to put one officer on the street.

Lowenberg said the money, allocated under the Federal Crime Bill, would only pay $25,000 per year toward the cost of each of the six officers' salary.

In other words, the city must dig into its coffers and pay the approximately $55,000 per officer difference in the cost of their salaries and benefits.

Sgt. Dan Johnson said the city has until March 3 to apply for the federal money.

The City Council next month is expected to deal with a $922,000 projected budget shortfall and, at the same time, also decide whether to take the federal funds.

The 1994-95 budget shortfall was created in part by the previous council's decision to spend $623,000 to hire additional police officers. Three new council members were elected in November.

Lowenberg has recommended that money be spent to hire six officers, a sergeant and a field services officer, a civilian position.

However, Johnson said, the council could use the federal money to offset the cost to hire the already approved officer positions, since the officers have not yet been hired.

The department has 230 budgeted sworn officer positions, but 16 positions are open because of recent retirements, Johnson said.

Further, retirements have left the department down one captain and three lieutenants, he said.

Johnson said the city is in dire need of increasing the number of police officers on the street responding to calls, as well as maintaining the current level of management.

"When there are calls for service, there are no available officers to handle calls--and those numbers are going up," he said.

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