GIRARD No penalty for police protest

Look for changes in all aspects of city government, the mayor says.
GIRARD -- Mayor James Melfi says he won't take disciplinary action against city police officers for parking their cruisers in protest.
"They can park their cars," he said. "I don't have a problem with it."
Monday morning, in front of the justice center adjacent to city hall, police parked some 17 cruisers assigned to them.
About a dozen were still in the center parking lot this morning.
Members of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 52, the social arm of the police, initiated what they are calling the "silent protest" because of speculation the officers will no long be assigned their personal cruisers.
"I don't know where they got the idea," Melfi asserted.
Procedure: Police are assigned cruisers and are responsible for their appearance and maintenance. They take the cruisers home with them.
Melfi said there has been a lot of speculation about what is contained in the state auditor's 250-plus page performance audit of city operations that has not been made public yet.
The audit, containing a number of money-saving recommendations, is a result of the city's being placed under a state-imposed fiscal emergency.
"They [police] feel possibly they've given up enough," the mayor said.
Melfi, who has the audit, declined to say if one of the recommendations is to reduce the number of police vehicles.
He did say there will be changes in all areas of city government to return the city to fiscal solvency by mid-2005.
FOP response: An FOP member who asked that his name not be used said information has filtered to police that the take-home policy will be eliminated.
There are 17 officers and dispatchers on duty. That is nine short of the former force. Three officers have been laid off.
Last week, Lodge 52 president Greg Manente said the group no longer has confidence in Melfi and called on Frank Rich, director of safety and human resources, to resign.
Melfi said the city can no longer afford to buy a large number of cruisers, or a fleet, as it has done in the past.
Although the city can save $50,000 over five years by buying new cruisers, it can only be done when the city has money to spend, Melfi explained.
The long-term savings, the mayor said, comes from a lower price by buying a large number and from the low maintenance needs of new vehicles, but the city can't afford the cost of a new fleet in the short term.

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