LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) -- CHief Ron Tischer's department needs more officers. At least in his opinion.
The La Crosse Police force is currently operating with 91 full time, sworn officers on staff.
Tischer said the department will hire two more officers this year, with those positions already having been authorized in the current city budget.
But the Chief said he would like to increase the size of the force further in the future.
"In the past we've been up to 99 officers," Tischer said. "I think that's a good number."
Tischer said if he can get six extra officers he would envisions them taking an active role in community based policing.
"What we'd like to do is put two on the north side, two on the south side and assign two to the central areas of La Crosse," Tischer said. "They'd be responsible for nothing but neighborhood meetings and solving problems in those specific areas and knowing all the drug dealers and the gangsters."
Tischer added he's a realist. He's not expecting the city to green light the hiring of six new police officers in one year.
But Doug Happel, a member of the La Crosse Common Council who also chairs the city's Police and Fire Commission, said finding funding for even one new position would be difficult.
Tischer said each new officer would cost the city $75-thousand each year. That includes benefits.
"We're dealing with a city budget which has experienced reductions in the past few years because the city is very much controlled by the restrictions that come in from the state of Wisconsin," Happel said.
"We had to struggle to maintain the police force at 93 for the 2013 budget," Happel said.
Police do not believe they can shuffle around the money in their department's budget to find funding for hiring any more officers.
"With the line items we have in our budget, there really is no room for wiggle room," said Lt. Pat Hogan.
Former La Crosse council member Chris Olson said another option is to use reserve fund money for the hiring(s). But it's not an option he recommended.
"You can't fund your annual budget with reserve money because it just makes it worse the next year," Olson said. "For example, if you dip in for $75-thousand this year, next year you'll have to dip in for $150-thousand."
The Chief said all of that means he's now looking into other options.
"One of the things we're pursuing is a federal cops grant," Tischer said. "We're going to apply and hopefully we can get one or two officers out of the cops grant."
"I think the grant option is the best option for us right now because every other department is feeling the same stresses on their budget that the police department is feeling," Tischer said. "There are a lot of other departments that need to hire people."
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