Budget cuts for RCPD employee benefits unfair

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Some of the least popular public figures in a college town are the law enforcement officers who keep students in check when we’re out and about on the weekends, speeding to class in the morning or braving the roundabout at Fourth Street and Bluemont. However, despite their notoriety among students, the officers at the Riley County Police Department are still arguably some of the most important individuals that we come in contact with on any given day, thanks to their unselfish willingness to serve the citizens of the surrounding area.

According to a spreadsheet detailing the recent history of the RCPD budget, the approved department budgets for the past three years have been continually on the rise. This trend seems to continue for the proposed 2014 funds that apply to law enforcement total salaries, contractual services and commodities. Unfortunately, however, it appears that the portion of the budget that allots funds for employee benefits, such as workers’ comp insurance, health insurance and unemployment compensation, will be taking a hit in the upcoming year.

A career in law enforcement is one of the most dangerous and demanding jobs in our country today. Police officers often spend extended hours on duty patrolling, sometimes up to 12 or more hours at a time, and due to their predictably unpredictable work day, could find themselves in a life-threatening situation at any given moment.

They deserve to be compensated for doing such work. With health care reform imminent and employee benefits being generally decreased across the board, it seems unfair that the individuals that we entrust our safety to on a daily basis should have their own health and safety benefits hindered.

Thankfully, Matthew Droge, public information officer for RCPD, offered a consoling explanation about budget changes for concerned citizens in a phone interview last Tuesday.

“It’s not really even a major cut. We’re mostly staying the same,” Droge said. “In 2012, the approved budget was about $17 million. The 2013 approved budget was $18,111, 200, and the proposed budget for 2014 is $18,413,500. It seems like an increase as a whole, but really it’s kind of a plateau.”

So, while some numbers in the proposed budget suggest that they’re increasing and others suggest a decrease, the department is really not experiencing any significant alteration of available funds, but rather a leveling of the allotted money.

Additionally, Droge maintained that the RCPD is set up in a way to help minimize the strenuous hours officers spend on the job, which may tend to downplay benefit deductions, even if only minimally.

“The police department is actually set up on a ‘hot spot’ policing theory,” he said. “Basically, that means that crime happens in certain areas. There’s a major part of our jurisdiction that actually doesn’t have large amounts of crime, so what we’ll do is put officers in certain areas where they’ll be most effective. They can spend a short amount of time in that area and affect it for a longer amount of time.”

While it’s unfair to cut benefits for the men and women who serve our community as law enforcement officials every day, area residents will never have to question the dedication or reliability of our officers. Regardless of the employee benefits they obtain, the RCPD officers will continue their tireless work to ensure that we continue to receive the safety that we all enjoy as citizens of Riley County.

Kaitlyn Dewell is a junior in journalism and digital media. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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