What level of police service are residents of Salt Lake City buying if 46 new officers are hired with a $2.1 million property tax increase?

Police Chief Michael Chabries told the City Council Tuesday night the budget increase likely wouldn't improve the time it takes to pursue investigations on some crimes but should improve response time for emergency calls.Response time to emergencies could drop from about 15 minutes to about five minutes. Low-priority requests for service could drop to 45 minutes. Currently, some people wait as long as two hours for officers during busy periods, Chabries said.

He noted that crimes would continue to be prioritized. High-priority crimes, such as homicide, would be investigated first. People whose homes have been burglarized would have to wait longer for an officer to investigate.

Chabries made the statements in response to a question from Councilman Tom Godfrey, who said he is worried that residents might get unrealistic expectations from a tax hike.

Chabries explained that 25 of the new officers hired through a tax increase would be placed into the patrol division, while smaller numbers would be allocated to the investigations division.

Earlier this year, he had requested 65 new officers. Negotiations reduced that request to 46.

Some council members remain uncomfortable with the tax increase. Councilwoman Roselyn Kirk asked Chabries what would happen to service if only 30 new officers were hired.

"The difference is going to be service levels," he said. "If you drop five or 10 officers, you are looking at a 20 percent increase in response time. . . . Conflicting signals are being sent out. We are telling people to call the police department when they have a problem, but we are unable to respond. We are essentially deteriorating our credibility," he said.

Councilman Whitehead also questioned why Chabries had proposed giving more officers to the Metro Narcotics Strike Force rather than deploying them with a city-only drug response team.

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Budget plan for police

The proposed Salt Lake City police budget would increase property taxes $16 a year for the owner of a $70,000 home.

Some of the $2.1 million tax increase go to:

- Hire 46 officers, $631,000

- Buy 46 police cars,$575,000

- Buy $265,000 worth of training and equipment

- Pay for $130,000 in summer overtime

- Fund $144,500 in early retirement

- Hire seven records clerks, $113,000