Thursday, July 12, 2007

Going rate for a consultant

Readers of this blog probably noted that I have been inviting exactly the kind of "performance audit" that the Mayor and the City Council have been talking about recently. Bring it on, please. Here's why: Omaha did just that, and we look pretty good in Omaha's study. The City of Omaha spent $275,000 to hire Matrix Consulting Group, a firm that specializes in such studies. The results hit the Omaha World Herald beginning on Monday, and the full report is available on their web site. It's an interesting read, and an example of what we could expect in such a study

Matrix concluded that the Omaha Police Department should be slightly downsized, and should replace 35 police officers with a smaller number (21) of civilian "Community Service Officers". These CSO's would handle minor incidents not requiring a police officer with full arrest authority, at a cost about 75% of that of a sworn police officer. The paraprofessional employees the consultant recommends are essentially the same as the Lincoln Police Department's Public Service Officers and Police Service Specialists, who collectively handled 12,039 of our 139,854 police calls-for-service last year. They'd be doing even more, but our non-sworn support staff has not fared well at budget time for many years.

One of our City Council members emailed me after reading some of the news stories about the Omaha study. He wanted to know how Lincoln's police staffing would compare to a "revised" Omaha Police Department, if the consultant's recommendations were implemented. It took me about a New York minute to respond:

We'd need to add 117 police officers to our staff of 316 officers in order to be at the same size per capita as Omaha after the proposed reduction. You'd also need to add 23 civilian support positions. That would be around $9.5 million per year, every year, for direct costs alone.

The comparative data on Lincoln/Omaha staffing is on page 75 of the technical appendices in the consultant's report. It demonstrates quite clearly how small the Lincoln Police Department is in comparison to the rest of the cities. This isn't an example of cherry-picking: we're the smallest police department per capita in the State, 177th smallest of the 192 in Nebraska and the surrounding states (between Hays, Kansas and Lee's Summit, Missouri, and the only city of 200,000 in the bottom half). Don't take my word, do your own research.

As we were discussing the Omaha study, one of my veteran coworkers, Capt. Jim Thoms, noted that the consultant's report is comprised of lots of the same kind of comparative data that I compile every year and supply to many other police departments, gratis. He suggested that he and I could split a Thermos of coffee and produce a pretty good efficiency study with much of the same information for a little less than $275,000.


daveh219 said...

Yeah...and knowing how cheap JT is he'd probably make you buy the coffee AND the Thermos...

Anonymous said...

This comparative data that you compile and supply to "many other police departments".... do you also supply that info to the mayor and city council?

Tom Casady said...

Yes, of course. Some of it is published in our Annual Report every year, and I have a briefcase full of color bar charts and tables on comparisons over time and comparisons with other cities.

I've provided these data repeatedly to candidates, elected officials, Hometown Security Committees, LPU, citizen groups, and individuals. This year, when I learned on a listserv that another police agency was trying to pull together the same kind of data, I posted an offer to simply provide my Excel workbooks upon request, to avoid anyone else recreating the wheel. I was somewhat flooded with requests.

All the City Council members know that Casady has comparative data and a chart or a graph on most everything. The reporters know it, too--as does anyone who reads this blog for very long.

None of these data are secret, and in this day and age, it is relatively simple to run comparisons from readily available public source data such as that referenced in my original blog post.