Controversy Over Cuts: 43 Police Vacancies Could Be Eliminated from Budget

September 27, 2013 Updated May 3, 2010 at 6:34 PM EDT

By Laura Gray

September 27, 2013 Updated May 3, 2010 at 6:34 PM EDT

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) --- It's a move some council members say is completely wrong. They claim Buffalo needs more police to keep the streets safe. Mayor Byron Brown says 43 police officer positions that are currently vacant should be eliminated from the budget.
The City of Buffalo follows a federal ruling about those police officer vacancies. The mayor says filling 43 positions could jeopardize future federal grant money. Some council members say it's an issue of safety, and the city should ask a judge for permission to fill them immediately.
The city of Buffalo was hoping to hire 43 police officers, but without enough minority candidates to qualify, the mayor says the best thing to do is to eliminate the vacant positions. "It has been determined based on availability of candidates on that list that we will not be able to meet those hiring requirements." Mayor Byron Brown says Friday.
The federal government's hiring requirements stem from a ruling made back the 1970s. Council Member Richard Fontana says, "They're saying if there is not enough qualified minority applicants within the pool of applicants, you cannot hire from that pool. At that point we have to empty the pool and refill it with new tests."
Council Member David Rivera says the city should petition the court for an exception that would allow it to hire non-minorities from the current list. "I guess problem is hire a number of minorities and have exhausted the minorities on this list. What I propose is that we hire off this list, and make up for a shortfall of minorities on the next exam."
Leaving the positions open and unfilled jeopardizes federal grant money, the mayor told us Friday. "So now if there is a future federal grant opportunity within the next year, we would be able to be in a better position to secure those dollars, by not funding those positions that won't be able to be filled for another year, anyway."
Council Member Mickey Kearns agrees with Rivera that the positions need filled now, even with a budget deficit of 24 million dollars. "We are going to be in the short term penny wise, but we could be pound foolish."
The current city test for Buffalo police officers has been approved by the courts. Common Council has three weeks to look over the budget and make changes before submitting them to the Mayor.