Monday, August 6, 2007

It's a team effort

The ugly budget situation the City has found itself in this year continues to bring forth some ridiculous and ill-formed opinions. If you need evidence, read the early comments posted in the Lincoln Journal Star's Sunday article on the police budget. I try not to read these, but every now and then, I can't help myself. Part of the reason I started this blog was to create an outlet for information that either doesn't make the news or gets filtered significantly.

So, here's something I'd like the public to know: the police department is not entirely composed of police officers.

One fourth of our workforce--a hundred employees--are civilians. Among other things, they handle our phone and walk-in services; process our supplies, evidence, and property; keep our fleet running; build and maintain our information and computer systems; examine our handwriting exemplars and fingerprints; process our video and audio recordings; research our peddler licenses, taxi licenses, concealed carry permit applications, salvage permits; keep track of our sex offenders, parolees, information reports, crime bulletins; transcribe our reports, maintain our criminal history information and our master name index; take care of 90% of our parking enforcement, and handled 12,039 of our calls for service last year. Civilian employees pay the bills, prepare and monitor the budget and grants, and ensure that payroll is on time and accurate. We'd be up the proverbial creek without the paddle without our support staff.

While candidates for City all run on the promise to increase police officers, and wring their hands over the prospects of cutting officers, our civilian support staff has been fair game, and despite my protests has not only failed to keep up with our needs, it's been reduced. We will have 8 fewer people on our civilian support staff in the coming fiscal year than we had in 2002, a time period during which our authorized number of police officers increased from 303 to 316. That's not even enough to keep up with population growth, but it's noteworthy that the sworn ranks increased, while the civilian support staff continues to shrink.

Citizens, including our elected officials, need to understand and think about the vital importance of our civilian staff in police work. Our achievements are because of team effort, and everyone is part of that team. Police officers need to think about the impact of these cuts, too. There should be no complaining about reduced service hours, slower turnaround, and the inability of Technical Resources to drop everything in order to replace a toner cartridge.

Keep this in mind: not very long ago, the great majority of these jobs were occupied by sworn police officers. Records was supervised by a Lieutenant and sergeants Property and Evidence was staffed by a lieutenant and officer; the Service Desk had a lieutenant, sergeants, and officers; the lab was run by lieutenant; Operations Information (now Crime Analysis) was staffed with a sergeant and several officers, as was Information Technology.

While we still have a handful of support jobs that could be civilain (try getting the money to do that), the fact is that we've replaced almost all of the sworn support jobs with civilians during the past 25 years. It's not this way everywhere, and you'll still find many U.S. police departments--some in our neighborhood--that are using sworn officers in these jobs. If we were operating that way, our already-undersized police department would have at least another 30 of our officers working support jobs.

Our civilian employees are as important to the success of this department as the police officers. We all need to appreciate the contribution they make to policing Lincoln. Within LPD, the sworn staff needs to support the civilian staff the same way they support us.

6 comments:

Mr. Wilson said...

Hi Chief,

The Journal Star's fabulous web software broke your link. Here's a working link to the article.

And please, don't read the LJS comments. They really should rename their comment section "Ignorance Rains" [sic]. I can actually feel my brain atrophy when I spend too much time reading the comments over there.

Tom Casady said...

Thanks for the fix, Mr. Wilson, and for the encouragement!

Anonymous said...

I've seen some of the remarkably ignorant, anti-police comments on articles in the local fishwrap. Many of those posters have little grasp of what an LE agency does, or how one operates.

(Disclaimer: I'm not involved with law enforcement myself, but have a few friends that are sworn LEOs, and so we talk about such things now and then.)

I think that most of the individuals that rag on LPD, LSO, NSP, and law enforcement in general are not your average citizens. They are probably not property owners, and may not even pay any taxes, when all is said and done. Many of them may be young and idealistic enough to still know absolutely everything. Maybe they are decaying hippies, who are occasionally well-incomed taxpayers, but still bent on turning on, tuning in, and dropping out. In 20 years, 99% of them will be feeding the flowers, their first productive act ever.

Many of us had our wilder days, myself included. Most folks outgrow that rebel-for-any-cause phase, but some jumped off the train in 1975 and will never move forward. Gray ponytail in back to balance out the receding hairline in front, and so forth. Power to the people. Kumbaya, kumbaya.

Then again, they might have had a run-in with badges at some time in the past, maybe even decades ago, and they just can't let go of it. It might have just been a speeding ticket or whatever, but of course none of it was their fault.

In any case, these people tend to be really loud, out of proportion with their small representation in society at large. You guys will always be one notch above the anti-Christ to those folks, so don't take their rantings to heart. It's no more worthy of serious attention than are chirping birds (but it's far more annoying). If the birds went away, pollination might suffer, but if the aforementioned fools went away, we'd all be better off.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anonymous 9:33 a.m. Apparantly most of the LJS bloggers have way too much time on their hands and just like to crab. They are probably the ones who call in every little thing in their neighborhood that bothers them. Ignorance Rains is correct Mr. Wilson.

Morons abound said...

I understand the mentality of the goofballs who really have no idea what they are talking about, are able to post any opinion they want on the blogs, but I don't get why the LJS would seem to try to perpetuate the stupidity.

Several times now, when LJS blogs have gone off the deep end with ignorance, I have tried to post a comment(God knows why) based on fact and logic. Funny how if you don't seem to be on one lunatic end of the spectrum or the other, how the post gets "moderated" and never gets posted.

Anonymous said...

chief - limited resources and all, the entire lpd is doing a great job. i so wish that more money would be given to lpd.

the local "omaha is better" crowd continues to live in lincoln. 'nuff said. maybe they're afraid of bullets.

i am guessing that the moderators at ljs indentify with the ignorant posters they accomodate.

the cop haters, always those who've broken the law(s). or, their poor babies have been picked on by the police. never mind the fact they've broken laws. they make me sick!