The Baton Rouge police union is the latest organization to publicly oppose the city of St. George, according to a statement issued Friday morning by the union president.
“While we understand that the incorporation organizers have issues that they think will be solved by this effort, we believe that it will lead to disastrous unintended consequences,” said Chris Stewart, president of the Local 237 police union. “We have made great strides in the war on crime in recent years, and the incorporation of St. George will harm those efforts.”
Stewart said current staffing levels and partnerships with other local law enforcement agencies contributed to the lower crime rate this year. But he is concerned the public safety budget could be cut if St. George’s incorporation creates a budget shortfall.
The police union follows the firefighters union, which earlier this month also came out against the proposed formation of the city of St. George.
A study conducted by LSU economists found that the incorporation could leave Baton Rouge with a $53 million shortfall; however, St. George officials argue it would be closer to a $14 million shortfall.
The economists’ report also found that “police protection accounts for 29 percent of the city-parish general fund,” and estimated that lost revenue caused by St. George would cause a 20 percent reduction in services for police protection.
“If the criminals in the city of Baton Rouge are allowed to grow stronger because of fewer officers on the streets, do you think they will stop at the entrance to St. George?” Stewart asked.
St. George organizers on Friday dismissed the union’s claims as a “scare tactic.”
“It’s no surprise that another Baton Rouge union has come out against the formation of the City of St. George,” Lionel Rainey said in a written response. “The city of Baton Rouge and the Baton Rouge police union’s stance is just another example of the backroom dealmaking citizens throughout the parish — and particularly in the unincorporated areas — have grown tired of.”