Naperville adds police officers, social worker to proposed 2021 budget

  • Naperville council members say they support adding four police officer positions and a social worker to help handle an increased number of mental health, domestic violence and other related cases.

    Naperville council members say they support adding four police officer positions and a social worker to help handle an increased number of mental health, domestic violence and other related cases. Daily Herald file photo

 
 
Updated 11/27/2020 6:21 PM

An increased number of mental health calls, domestic violence calls, traffic complaints and serious crashes in Naperville could be addressed through the hiring of four police officers and a social worker, Chief Robert Marshall said.

The five law enforcement positions are expected to be included in the city's 2021 budget, along with a new employee focused on sustainability efforts, per the direction provided by the city council this week. An estimated $500,000 would be allocated for the six new hires, with expenses likely to rise in 2022, Finance Director Rachel Mayer said.

 

The city's desire to ramp up police resources in certain areas arose from a series of budget workshops held over the last several weeks.

Since traffic enforcement staffing levels were cut years ago, Marshall said, community education programs and safety initiatives have declined, while serious and fatal crashes are at a record high. Some of those resources would be restored through the new hires, who could respond to resident complaints, handle traffic violations and "enhance the visibility in the neighborhoods, which our residents are asking for," he said.

The department also would bump up some of its more experienced officers to the special response team, Marshall said.

"I think that's a very balanced approach to public safety in our community," he said.

Department data, case volumes and discussions with staff members sparked Marshall's proposal to bolster the number of full-time social workers to four from three, allowing them to be divided evenly between the day and night shifts.

The social workers handle hundreds of cases each year, he said, and respond with sworn officers to a variety of domestic, mental health and other calls that have been on the rise in the last five years.

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The department's 2021 budget also includes crisis intervention training for officers, upgrades to a computer-aided dispatch system, and the initial stages of implementing a body camera program.

Council members also directed staff members this week to add a sustainability employee to next year's planned expenses. That person would advance and manage projects related to sustainability in energy, waste, transportation, natural resources and building and planning, Councilman John Krummen said.

"This is something that will have a return on investment," he said. "Sustainability is about efficiency. There will be a cost avoidance. Can we quantify it at this point in time? No. But we know it's there."

The city council is expected to vote on the $507 million budget at its Dec. 1 meeting.

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