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DuBose says lean budget may be tough for MPD

By By Sheila Blackmon/The Meridian Star
Sept. 4, 2001
Acting Police Chief Benny DuBose believes a lean and possibly inflexible city budget next year may not be easy for his department and could mean a compromise in city services.
DuBose said recently that he doesn't think people realize how dire the situation could be.
DuBose talked recently about the city's proposed budget for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. Residents can share their views on the budget and $75 million in projected revenue during a 5:30 p.m. public hearing today at the city council chambers.
Rising costs
DuBose said that services, such as DNA testing of fluids from felony crime sites and various DNA tests included in a rape kit, once cost the Meridian Police Department $1,000 or less through the local branch of the state crime lab.
The state crime lab has stopped providing the testing while lab technicians undergo training. In addition, the state doesn't charge for its lab technicians to serve as witnesses once a case goes to trial.
Forced to seek these services through private labs, DuBose said the cheapest rape kits he has found are $3,500-$5,000. He said private lab technicians performing the tests charge about $400 an hour if called to testify in trials.
And he doesn't have a choice because the district attorney requires rape kits be done in all rape cases. If police don't, then defense attorneys can request them at the city's expense and they don't have to share results with the prosecution.
Other expenses
In addition to DNA testing, the $20-a-day cost for holding city prisoners in the county jail, various attorneys fees and other expenses come out of the MPD's money for professional services.
And the city's proposed budget would give MPD the same amount next year as it received this year for professional services about $250,000, DuBose said.
Jailing fees has DuBose looking at alternatives. He and his staff are developing a policy to cut the number of inmates they jail, possibly ticketing them and sending lawbreakers home if they don't jeopardize the safety of others.
He said that policy could save the department at least $5,000 a month.
To cut expenses, the city council is considering stopping employees from taking vehicles home.
While officers understand they are in a budget crunch, DuBose said, taking vehicles home is a "feel-good benefit." Facing no pay raise and what some see as a pay cut if insurance costs rise many police believe they are being punished.
He said the department has not received new patrol cars, other than those replaced by insurance after accidents the last couple of years. Most cars have 100,000 miles or more on them, he said, and they operate 24 hours a day.
Sheila Blackmon is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call her at 693-1551, ext. 3275, or e-mail her at sblackmon@themeridianstar.com.