Harrisburg Police requests cash, while reeling from cuts

Harrisburg police over budget

HARRISBURG, IL (KFVS) - The police department in Harrisburg is under-staffed and under-funded according to the city's police chief, something city leaders hope to fix in the coming months.

The trouble began last year when the city made cuts in every department, which set the police department up for a more than $12,000 deficit.

Harrisburg police chief Whipper Johnson said the department is currently missing a patrolman and a detective, the primarily federally-funded SWAT program has been cut due to pension liability issues according to the mayor, the K-9  program has dissolved and the department is expecting several retires within the next year.

The current situation leaves the department short in regards to contractual obligations to have at least three officers assigned to every shift.

"I've worked as many as one-hundred-some hours a week to fill in the gaps," Harrisburg Police Chief Whipper Johnson said. "Those are police services that are provided to the citizens of Harrisburg, so, its not necessarily just a cut to the police department... that's a cut to taxpaying citizens."

Unlike positions which are lower on the metaphorical totem pole, Johnson is not eligible for overtime pay.

"He has a family, and he's doing it to save dollars," Mayor Dale Fowler said. "So it's something we're going to need to take a strong look at, because this doesn't need to continue."

In addition to Johnson's extra hours, the officers of the department put in more than their fair share, as well.

The overtime pay alone has contributed to what Johnson said is a deficit that will only grow without action.

"If we don't get more funding, we're probably going to be in red, in the same situation we were last year," Johnson said.

Fowler said he thinks the situation can be corrected without increasing funding.

"Within the next couple of weeks even, one of the more tenured officers is due to retire," Fowler said. "That will allow us to bring in probably two rookie-level officers, with no change to funding levels."

The mayor said he expects tax revenue to generally increase in Harrisburg, as more businesses form within the community, and housing developments prosper.

"These are all things that will be discussed moving forward," Fowler said. "Public safety should be the first priority of any community, and we intend to resolve this as soon as possible."

The Saline County States Attorney's office recently reported that crime in Saline County is up when compared to past years.

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