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Council tackles police and fire budgets

By Eileen Buckley

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wbfo/local-wbfo-900551.mp3

Buffalo, NY – Leaders of the Buffalo Police and Fire Departmentsappeared in Common Council Chambers Thursday for city budget hearings. The Council continues its review of Mayor Byron Brown's proposed budget.

Both departments have been under tough scrutiny for the number of officers and firefighters injured on duty. There are currently 710 city firefighters. Fifty-five are classified as injured on duty (IOD). Newly appointed Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield told lawmakers he has a new idea to help prevent anyone from abusing IOD.

"We're going to hold people accountable," Whitfield said. "We need to immediately file (for disability) on persons who are not going to return to the department."

Niagara District lawmaker David Rivera -- a former Buffalo police detective -- says many IODs are not fraudulent.

"I certainly don't want a stigma attached to people who say they are injured on duty," Rivera said.

Twenty-two new firefighters will be graduating today. The fire commissioner says that will help cut back on some of the high overtime costs in the fire department.

Leaders of the Police Department were also questioned about the Mayor's proposed budget. Brown wants to cut 43 vacant police officer jobs. Interim Police Commissioner Daniel Dreneda says the city is waiting for a court to decide if there are enough qualified minority candidates from the current recruitment list to fill those positions. Dreneda stressed to lawmakers and citizens that crime has dropped a little more than 11 percent in four years.