One of the most interesting things to come out of the Public Safety Sub-Committee meeting last week was a statistic presented by LPD Chief Ken Lavallee. Ideally, a city of Lowell's population *should* have 286 police officers. Instead, we have 200.
That's bad for pretty much all non-criminal elements involved in the equation. Presence is a huge deterrent to crime, esp. the street-level "crimes of opportunity" that make people feel unsafe in their own neighborhoods.
As a homeowner and someone planning to have a stake in the city for many years to come, I would certainly be willing to bear a proportional property tax hike if it meant the City could hire 86 more police officers. Unfortunately, though, the cost of those extra 86 cops is a lot more complicated than taking their average starting salaries, multiplying by 86, and then dividing by the # of taxpayers.
The retirements, health benefits, and other goodies are what led to a major reduction in the Newark, NJ Police Dept during its worst crime wave in years, and they're a major contributor to Camden, NJ (by several statistical measures the worst city in the United States...seriously) cutting half its police force. Yes, HALF of its entire police force...seriously.
Is there some way we could compromise here? How about 86 new police officers with a simultaneous compromise to limit all new public safety retirements to a defined benefit? A certain annual percentage could be offered by the city to an individual's 401(k), and that would be the end of the deal -- no major unfunded overhead to worry about when that officer retired and then lived another 50 years.