Topeka Police Force Faces Budget Constraints

By: Suzie Gilbert Email
By: Suzie Gilbert Email

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Budget problems threaten to leave the Topeka Police force with 30 fewer officers than were budgeted for 2012. At the same time, Topeka City Council members are due to vote on building a new fire station, giving more dollars to the Topeka Fire Department.

Despite the police force being down 30 officers, the department came in at $800-thousand over budget. Officials say the police department came in over-budget due to an unexpected hike in pension costs. It forced Interim City Manager Pam Simecka to halt the Police Academy scheduled to start July 1st.

The force is down 21 officers, plus five recent retirements, and five officers on leave. With no new trained officers, police say that could be a dangerous dent in the department.

"We've started an actual violent crime unit and were trying to staff that up but we can't do that until we get officers out on the street," Topeka Police Captain Brian Desch said.

Simecka says her move was strictly as an administrator, and she's leaving the policy decision to the Council.

"If they on a policy issue decide they want to fund the additional staff for the police department, then that the policy issue this Council needs to decide," Simecka said.

In the meantime, Council members will hear a resolution that would budget in a new fire station, at $3.6 million. Station 13 would be the only station in Council district nine, built on former Menninger campus land, off SW 6th Ave., between Fairlawn and Wanamaker. Officials say the department would likely shift staff, so no new employment would be necessary.

Topeka Police say they do need more officers. Officers they say they could be losing, as their funding hangs in the balance.

"The downside is most people who apply for one law-enforcement agency, probably apply for two or three at the same time, and so a lot of the time they'll take the first one that makes them an offer. Conceivably, we could lose several that will take an offer somewhere else," Desch said.

Council members will hear the fire station resolution at their meeting Tuesday night (6/19). They'll discuss Topeka Police Department funding a week from Tuesday.


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