WPB Police Chief says his department's proposed projects are not a wish list, but 'basic needs'

Not enough officers, old police cruisers, and a building in desperate need of renovations are three things West Palm Beach Police Chief Vince Demasi says are critical issues plaguing the department.

"This is very serious. This is not me saying 'I sure would like to have this.' These are basic needs we need as a police department for us to do what we need to do," Chief Demasi said.

Demasi says a troubled economy led the department to cut back on hiring to avoid layoffs in previous years.

But now, the department is short 23 officers. And that problem only becomes more complicated because 45 officers are expected to retire over the next four years.

"It is all about supply and demand right now. There is a tremendous demand and very little supply," Demasi said.

Demasi says it is not easy to recruit officers because so many departments are hiring.

And he says their aging fleet of cars and infrastructure issues don't help the problem.

"If I can go to a police agency ten miles down the road and drive a brand new car that I can take home with me, and I have to come to your agency and drive a seven year old car that I have to park and not take home with me...that is the sort of competition," Chief Demasi said.

Demasi says the department's headquarters is in desperate need of repairs.

"This is not just a leaky roof. These are substantial issues with water coming into the building," Demasi said.

83 percent of the department's budget goes to salaries and benefits. Demasi says they are in need of about two million dollars for capital improvements relating to the building and patrol cars.

"We've let some things go because of finances. But we've reached a critical point. And we have to work through it with the community," Demasi said.

Demasi says it takes officers about five minutes to respond to calls in the city right now. He is hoping to get that number closer to three and a half minutes.

He briefed the West Palm Beach City Commission about the needs at a workshop Monday night.

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