Police Commissioner Franz Christian told the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday that he can trim his Fiscal Year 2000 budget by 11 percent by cutting all spending for equipment in half, eliminating spending for maintenance and hiring non-police personnel.
Christian said 94 percent of his budget goes to payroll and overtime expenditures. And even at that level, the commissioner said he is suffering a loss of personnel, most of whom cite low pay as the primary reason they are leaving the police force.
The loss of trained and experienced police is a problem, Christian said, because new applicants are less qualified and more experienced officers who consider transfering to the Virgin Islands are discouraged by the existing pay scale.
Noting the territory's current financial condition, the commissioner outlined a V.I. Police Department reorganization plan that would result in a modest savings to the department.
The plan calls for a shuffle of the police hierarchy. Instead of one chief of police for each of two districts, the commissioner proposed the appointment of a single territorial chief and three deputy police chiefs, one for St. Thomas-Water Island, one for St. John and one for St. Croix.
To whittle away at the projected $2.8 million overtime expenditure, Christian recommended shifting the cost of police presence at special events to the event promoters and curtailing the use of police to special security details such as the one that escorts the governor and other high officials.
"For many years the department has been absorbing these costs. These are not budgeted costs and it has put a tremendous strain on the department's budget," he said.