Looking out for self while city crumbles
determine how to staff both its fire and police departments. In the
end, several rounds of cuts were made at the police department
because the fire department clung to the city's charter requirement
for minimum manning, requiring a certain staffing level due to
population. That meant that firefighters jobs were saved while police
jobs were cut.
Fast forward several months and look at the city now, besieged with
almost daily shootings, elevating from (how terrible to say) simple
shootings to actual shootouts. How long until a child is struck by a
This past week alone has seen two homicides out of three (or four, as
the latest incident involves two areas) shootings. The violence as
escalated, with Saturday's fatal shooting of a Pontiac teenager being
carried out when his home was stormed by a group of five people, one
of whom is believed to have had an AK-47.
Then a young man from Clarkston was gunned down while reportedly
driving through a neighborhood, perhaps looking for drugs. Then last
night, two people went to the POH Medical Centers emergency room with
gun shot wounds, prompting the hospital to go into lockdown mode.
Will there come a time when hospitals and their staffs have to lock
their doors instead of receiving victims, as earlier this year one
shooting led to a near riot outside a hospital?
Many people said, especially several of the veteran prosecutors who
had worked in this city with both police investigators and victims of
crimes, they feared lawlessness would prevail and violence would expand.
More than 15 years ago, Pontiac saw homicide rates in the 20s and
30s, but under then-Chief Rollie Gackstetter and his efforts to put
as many officers as he could on the streets working both in the
neighbors and with residents in crime prevention programs, the
homicide rate dipped to as low as three in one year. In 2004, the
city had 170 officers; today, they have 65.
How can this unit patrol the city without constantly scrambling from
one crime scene to another? It cannot.
Today, we're at 20 homicides with three months to go in the year. We
could have had two more last night.
On top of that, throughout the year, numerous shooting injuries get
reported, typically involving someone getting shot in the leg in some
neighborhood. According to a recent story in The Oakland Press, a
rough estimate at POH Medical Centers showed 1,300 victims of crimes
It is too bad that Mayor Clarence Phillips and the City Council could
not find a solution with the fire department to keep officers, and it
is a real shame that fire officials could not work with the city
instead of fighting potential cuts.
Perhaps, the city should have looked at a widespread change, creating
a Department of Public Safety where members perform both police
officer and firefighters duty. Then they could have officers on the
streets, as it is evident that lawlessness has taken over without the
uniformed presence in the neighborhoods.
But it's too late for that, I think, and it will take a long time for
the city to recover economically enough to restore its police
department. That means that this problem could simply get worse.
I don't want to know.