Meridian Police Chief Benny Dubose revealed his plan for changes at the MPD during a 2004 budget meeting with city council members on Wednesday.
Dubose would like to reduce the number of sworn officers from 109 to 95 and have patrol officers work 12-hour shifts, instead of 8 hours. Detectives and office personnel would not be included.
The money saved would not go back into the general fund but be allocated for personnel raises, in addition to the 2.5 percent yearly increase that all city employees get.
"We could give our personnel raises at no additional cost to the city," Dubose said. "It would be in the budget. This would cover it."
Dubose maintains there would be no reason for citizens to feel less safe.
"I think that what they have to do is look at the fact that we've never been completely up to staff anyway. We've always been. I think last year at this time we were about 20 officers short. Fourteen short wouldn't be any difference from what we've been dealing with in the past. But going to 12 hour shifts we will actually have more people on the street than we've ever had in say the last 15 years. Fifteen officers on the street during daylight hours and 18 during nighttime hours," said Dubose.
The shifts would be 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Dubose said the resulting higher pay will make his department more competitive.
"This will help us in recruiting as far as other departments in the state," the chief said. "It will also help us keep the officers we have."
Mayor John Robert Smith said he likes the idea. He has asked other departments to see if they also can leave open slots unfilled, leading to increases for their remaining employees. The city council would have to approve the plans before they could be enacted.