JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Tonight's City Council vote will in large part determine how many cops are on the street next year. If the council rejects the sheriff's proposed emergency ordinance, Sheriff John Rutherford says he'll have to lay off as many as 95 law enforcement officers, in addition to the 130 corrections and civilian positions he's already eliminating next year.
First Coast News looked at the past 10 years of staffing at the Sheriff's Office and found that the number of sworn officers has remained largely consistent.
That will change, however, if council does not agree to restore $6.1 million to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office budget, a surprise cut that was tacked onto another almost $21 million in cuts that Sheriff Rutherford had agreed to.
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If the council votes no, Sheriff Rutherford predicts what he calls "a worst case scenario" in which the department will be forced to scale back some services. The sheriff insists that basic public safety will not be compromised, but even without additional cuts, some city crime statistics remain stubbornly high.
The number of forcible sex offenses increase last year, and guns are used more in violent crime here than in other counties.
• There were 789 forcible sex offenses in 2011, an increase of 12 percent
• Guns were used in 2,218 crimes in 2011, a rate higher than in any other county
• Duval County leads the state's large counties in the domestic violence rate, with a total of 7,604 cases reported last year
• Murder capital Duval has 8.79 murders per 100,000, higher than Miami-Dade's 8.66
If the cuts take effect, the number of police on the force will revert to levels just slightly above levels in 2003 - before the city took the title as Florida's Murder Capital, which prompted an increase in public safety spending.