Thursday, April 23, 2009

Whadda ya think?

We’re back in the throes of City budget preparation, a process that seems to last from December to August. Like cities nationwide, the challenges are immense given the recession. Lincoln is staring at a multi-million dollar gap between our projected revenues for fiscal year 2009-2010 and the expenditures needed to maintain the current level of service. Something’s got to give: either more revenue (unlikely) or more cuts.

This follows two particularly lean years in city government where over 100 jobs were cut. The less painful medicine has already been taken, now the bitter pills await. All City departments were tasked with submitting a budget that is 91% of their current FY 2008-2009 budget. Since cost escalate about 3%, meeting a 91% budget really means cutting to 88%.

Since our budget is primarily personnel costs, you can do a rough calculation of what this means by multiplying our 417 employees by 12%. Whether such drastic cuts really occur is another matter, but I have been warned by the budget staff that it will be nigh-on-to-impossible to balance the City books if the public safety agencies (police, fire, 911) are taken off the table, since they account for the biggest chunk of the tax-funded portion of the City budget.

When you’re in my position, you’ve got to at least think about and plan for how you would handle cuts, if they happen. The process is rather straightforward: you look around at all the activities and programs your department is engaged in, and you compare these to out mission—providing police services that promote a safe and secure community. Enforcing traffic laws has a significant impact on safety. Investigating child abuse and neglect has a big impact on safety, crime prevention efforts and problem-oriented policing projects aimed at burglary reduction has an impact of security, and so forth.

Parking enforcement, conversely—though it may have important purposes and value—has virtually no relation to our mission of promoting safety and security. The contribution of traffic direction at special events to safety and security is debatable. And what does the investigation of traffic crashes—a major consumer of police resources—contribute to safety and security? A bit, perhaps, but not very much.

The Mayor and I had just this discussion last year, and he was intrigued. I told him that traffic crashes are one of life’s minor crises, and that we make these less painful for citizens. We help them get wreckers, notify family members, gather the information from the other driver they’re going to need, ensuring that he or she has a license, isn’t drunk, and has insurance (or issue citations for these offenses. We also do crash a investigation that often leads to a ticket for a moving violation, and always produces a detailed report, which makes it much easier for insurance companies to evaluate and settle claims.

We could, however, produce the former (help with wrecker, make sure drivers exchange information, evaluate for suspended license-drunk driving-no insurance) without producing the later (the detailed investigation and the investigator’s report.) This would take your typical fender bender from over an hour down to about 30 minutes or so. If you do the math, that’s somewhere between two and three officers in person-hours. If we were to lose personnel, my goal will be to keep the workload of our staff manageable, so they can continue to do what remains with quality. I want to drop the least important services, so the effort can be focused on the most important work.

This is exactly what we have done in previous down cycles. Off the top of my head, we no longer escort funerals, investigate traffic crashes on private property, assist with money transfers, unlock cars, go with the Fire Department to all medical emergencies, respond to barking dogs, teach DARE, provide school resource officers to elementary schools, or investigate gas drive-offs with no suspects. That’s several thousand police dispatches annually that we would have been making in 1989 that we aren’t making in 2009. So, what’s next? Would traffic crash investigation be a logical choice?

The City is engaged in a survey to gauge what citizens think about several of the cuts that are under consideration. I’d like to get my own sense, though, from readers of the Chief’s Corner. How would you feel if you were rear-ended, we helped get things organized at the scene, but we didn’t take statements, do measurements, evaluate cause, or produce an investigator’s report? Is my thought process sound in ranking this as only marginally related to our core mission (particularly in comparison to other police activities?)

50 comments:

Anonymous said...

I could live with that, although I assume when you say you wouldn't evaluate cause, you would still determine whether alcohol was involved and take action if it were...? Probably a dumb question.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe that our Police Department should have their budget cut at all. If this means that tax increases are necessary so be it. We have a great police department that is already understaffed and underpaid (especially c compared to national averages). It is time we make real choices of where we want to invest in our community; the LPD should be on the top of that list. I believe a good place to start cutting would be the Lincoln Fire Department, as they work extremely hard when responding to a fire, they also spend much time watching TV, working out, and holding other jobs while on the tax-payers dime. Maybe they could cut the city grass while on duty and we wouldn’t have to pay another group of individuals to do that. Just a thought.

Person #1 said...

I'm perfectly capable of finding wreckers, exchanging information, etc. What I would want from the police is the report for the insurance company--something valuable that only the police can provide.

sydney said...

Having recently been hit in a fender bender, I was quite thankful the police showed up and did the detailed report. It gives me a sense of security and confidence when dealing with the insurance agencies that an authoritative neutral 3rd party has assessed the situation.

If the police department didn't do this, I think we would end up paying more in terms of legal fees - not to mention general headaches - to resolve fault and get things settled. In my experience, insurance companies hate to pay out.

So, ultimately it might not really save anyone any money. It would just eliminate some jobs and transfer the cost to the individuals.

abeltz55 said...

Chief,
I specifically recall thinking that I was doing the insurance company's work back when I was creating detailed accident reports. I believe a violation of the law can be determined without extensive diagramming, etc. Now that I'm on the other side of the coin (working for an insurance company) I am more convinced that the extensive report is almost exclusively for the benefit of insurance companies (with some additional statistical benefit to highway safety related departments). As you are aware, a citation from the police is only a very small piece of handling an insurance claim as the elements and burdens of proof and for criminal (traffic) and civil are different. Also, many jurisdictions across the country don't allow police traffic citations to be admitted as evidence in civil proceedings. Finally, I regularly view accident reports from 14 states across the country and can say with great confidence that LPD's reports are consistently more complete and professional than anything I see anywhere else. I've seen reports for serious injuries and even fatalities that don't hold a candle to a regular fender bender worked by LPD. In my opinion, a significant amount of time and energy could be saved by reducing the effort spent on the typical LPD accident investigation.

Tom Casady said...

6:37-

Yes, but we wouldn't gather the evidence necessary to support (for example) a citation for running a stop sign, left of center, negligent driving. We'd check the driver's license, proof of insurance, and assess for DWI. If the driver was suspended, had no insurance, or was drunk, we'd take action. We'd help you arrange transportation if you're car was disabled, we'd help you get a wrecker. Then we would be on our way. The only record we would have would be the dispatch record: time, date, location, case number, officer.

Person#1 and Sydney:

No argument that it's a nice service to provide to insurance companies and to their insured clients. But something may have to give. Any ideas on what you'd do to reduce the police budget by 12%?

We'll need $3.7 million. Keep in mind the mission of the police department:

"We, the members of the Lincoln Police Department, working with all people, are committed to providing quality police services that promote a safe and secure community."

What of the many things we do contribute the least to safety and security?

Anonymous said...

Sydney:

You are assuming that everyone gets into accidents. While having every Lincoln tax payer pay an addition $100/year to keep this service for the more accident prone might be a better deal for you, it certainly isn't for someone who has had zero accidents in 20 years.

Chief: Is it feasible/legal/ethical to offer these accident assistance services to people who request them and simply bill them for the cost of the police resources consumed? I suppose that would add additional accounting overhead and probably wouldn't be worth it ultimately... just a thought.

Tom Casady said...

9:51-

I think it may be possible, but both administratively burdensome (we'd need an accounts receivable operation), and politically difficult--in my estimation more difficult than dropping it altogether.

Anonymous said...

I'd think that skipping the detailed report for the less severe(injury)accidents is fine. I didn't know that such detailed work was done for ordinary fender benders.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure you've seen some of the stories popping up lately relating to departments charging citizens for responding to an accident. The fees aren't small either - somewhere around $800 - $1000. Love your thoughts on that.

I do think that stopping the investigation of these non-injury accidents would just cause a shift in the costs to another area - like increased court litigation etc. But that's not your budget :)

JD said...

In all honesty, if I'm understanding this proposal correctly, I would feel that the police would not be adequately doing their job. Most accidents are caused by someone breaking a law, even if the driver is fully licensed, insured, and sober. It sounds to me like this sort of change could effectively result in the guilty going unpunished in many situations, and I would consider this unjust, regardless of whether or not I was the victim in such an incident. Furthermore, I think this could eventually lead to less deterrence for dangerous driving habits, which would certainly make me feel less "safe and secure" on the roads of our community. I think this is an essential police function and far more important than any of the previously-discontinued services mentioned above, none of which would lead to the sort of eventual results that I've described here. I think the LPD does a fine job of handling accidents, and I think the status quo in that regard needs to be maintained.

Mamma Spice said...

If staffing for isssuing parking citations is reduced, what will the revenue impact be like? Where does that revenue go? In Omaha, this money goes to the schools, but they don't pay the meter readers.

Anonymous said...

I know this is heresy here in tax-averse Nebraska, but I am willing to pay a lot more in property taxes (which already top more than 7K annually and we are NOT wealthy) to fund the kind of services I want in Lincoln. Lincoln is continually ranked as being a place with a high quality of life. But as we chop off our knuckles, then our hands, and then our arms, that ranking will flee. And it becomes a vicious cycle.

In answer to your question, Chief, I would feel that not getting a detailed accident report with corroborating evidence to support violations would make me feel like the police are not doing their jobs. And I think that there should be an analysis of whether billing insurance agencies (which will merely cost shift this to insured) would be beneficial.

And Mamma Spice: I do believe that meter revenue goes to the schools.

Anonymous said...

Mamma Spice-

The city recovers a very small percentage (chief?) of the fines from parking tickets. The rest goes to the School system.

I think cutting parking enforcement would not be a good idea. They handle abandoned vehicle complaints, wheel tax violations, assist officers will traffic direction, and are another "set of eyes" in their respective areas. Ask any of the officers if they are glad that Parking Enforcement officers are there. I bet 99% will say "hell yes".

The officers would rather be solving/preventing real crimes, not issuing tickets for blocked driveways, stalled vehicles in roadways, and handicap violations.

Not a good idea to cut them in any way, shape or form. They are a credit to your department Chief.

Anonymous said...

I think the idea of charging the owners (residents or landlords) of a home or residential unit that exceeds a calls-per-month threshold for certain types of calls has some merit. This would be above and beyond any fines for disorderly house offenses. Loud parties, domestic disputes, non-mentally-disabled (aka brat) teen and adolescent runaways, that sort of thing. If they accumulate, oh, say, more than 3 in a 30 day period, they start being hit on an escalating scale of "fees", and these go to the city, not the schools.

Anonymous said...

I'm all for dropping the Meter readers, Like in an earlier blog; writing the tickets cost the city more then they get back anyway! For that matter, you dont need the guy that collects the meter money "cuz aint nobody gonna pay anyway". You might as well get rid of atleast one of the people that process the citations "cuz they will be budget weight sometime". You could eliminate a tech who services the cars and or equipment "cuz the cars and equipment are no longer needed" While the "trickle down" continues, why not eliminate the tow lot "cuz no need for it if we got nobody to tow the cars" Oh and an inventory clerk "cuz whats she or he going to inventory with out a towed car.

Lets see maybe you can fill us in on just how many jobs you could eliminate by cutting a process that originally caost the city more then it gets back.

OR:

Maybe the LPD will be more like some of the other private companies currently downsizing and take a similar approach, start cutting from the top down! Leave the guys and gals actually on the front lines alone!

Scanner Listener...

Tom Casady said...

10:51-

I agree with you, but are the majority of City Council members in Lincoln willing to raise the property tax levy for the first time in a couple of decades, if that's what is needed to keep the police department staffing at its current level of 317 officers?

If not, what would you have me cut instead--aside from deadweight management Scanner Listener refers to? Even if you cut all of the deadweight managers like me and let the department run on autopilot, there are only 16 of us, and that's only about half of what you'll need to reach an 88% budget

What police activities or services are least important, and could be sacraficed with the smallest impact on safety, security, or whatever it is that you think the police should be primarily concerned with?

Ryan said...

I think accident reports are a valuable benefit that shouldn't be cut.

I think you would receive a large backlash when someone or their property is seriously injured, calls the police for an accident report, and the police claim that they don't do that anymore. I agree with the poster who says I can arrange for my own transportation and wrecker. What I want is for you to give the other guy a ticket so he can't claim that I was at fault and then sue my pants off.

I'll give you at least one suggestion for an area to cut rather than cutting accident investigations. No more speed traps. I'd much rather get a traffic citation for when I actually caused harm than when I was just at a higher risk to cause harm.

Seriously, though, with that kind of budget cut, it seems like you'll have no choice other than to make an across the board cut in all service areas. And I think most of the citizens realize that and accept it. Otherwise the police would be immune to budget cuts.

I recently had the opportunity to have to make a police report for some vandalized property. I was pleasantly surprised when an officer was at my door in fifteen minutes. I could probably live with an officer getting back to me in a couple of days for minor stuff like this if budget cuts require it.

Anonymous said...

To answer your question chief at 4:08. There isn't anything left to cut! We've done everything possible to streamline the department by eliminating the aforementioned medicals, barking dogs, etc. etc. It's time this city pays for the services and taxes need to be raised. If we continually cut services and not add more officers to keep up with the population then the criminal element will begin to take root and this city will start to take a downward spiral. Be it traffic enforcement, accident investigation, crime prevention, etc. - they are all important aspects of public safety. No more Mr. Mayor!

Ed S 359 said...

Chief,

Do we have any obligation to report serious property damage accidents to the state or to the feds? I know citizens are required to report them to us.

Just showing up at the scene and helping a person through the trauma of an accident is probably the most important thing we do at an accident scenes. To most people a fender bender, no matter how serious or not, is a signifigant event in their lives. They need our help negotiating their paths through those events. In that regard I believe we must continue to respond to accidents.

Traffic accidents (and traffic stops) are the most common way for new officers to hone their investigation and people skills. I believe that doing away with these investigations would hurt the quality of our police services. On the other hand, about three years ago a rural mail carrier backed into me in my POV. It was a remote location. There were no independent witnesses and no law enforcement was involved. The situation worked out fine.

If this happens does it mean I will not have to work a cruiser involved accident?

Not much help with the budget just my blabbering.

Anonymous said...

Hello- I'm from 250 miles away reading your blog as it's a pretty interesting commentary. I like how you've been writing about different issues and this is a pretty good post and good way to get feedback about things. On this particular post I'd agree with you that you can cut the report- gets the officers back on the street sooner and saves the money of writing the investigative reports. However, if something is blatantly obvious that one of the drivers was at fault, (i.e. over center line) I would assume that they'd still be cited- but there isn't much of a point to spend an hour investigating every single accident and pulling up every thing in the book that they could be charged with.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see the city portion of the property tax go up 40 bucks per $100K of assessed value, with 30 of that 40 going to LPD and the other 10 going to LFR. I could easily live with that, as long as the city gub'mint didn't then reduce the LPD and LFR budgets in order to instead spend that tax money on stupid transient-heaven parks and ED-ing perfectly good buildings to make way for another grandiose project that falls flat and instead winds up as a parking lot.

spammy said...

Chief, I would sugggest cutting the officers who jump out of the bushes clocking people. If I recall LPD has two or maybe three of these "speed traps" set up daily. I know only a small fraction of officers are involved with this but it may be a start. I don't think this would make me feel less safe. I, for one, am not a speeder out of fear getting a ticket. Besides, no one HAS to know this function is being eliminated....

Anonymous said...

Chief,

I beg forgiveness--

neigh-on-to-impossible should be nigh-on-to-impossible or even well-nigh impossible.

I shall now flog myself with a dictionary (covers head, runs away)

signed,
Grammar Nazi

Tom Casady said...

Grammar Nazi-

Thanks! I apreciate it.

All-

Thanks! This is great feedback.

Anonymous said...

This is same old crap. The cash cow is hiding.

Anonymous said...

In addition to my $40 per $100K valuation and 3/1 LPD/LFR split idea, I also wouldn't mind seeing an additional $40 per $100K valuation (with the same 3/1 split) tacked on to all residential rental properties. Renters are more likely to use lots of police services in the form of disturbance calls than are "occupying owners", so the renters' landlords can pay more tax (and pass that cost on to the tenant, with a mark-up - that's what I'd do). It's about a buck a week per $100K, not a king's ransom.

JD said...

Chief, just like 5:55, I don't think there is anything left for the LPD to cut, and if there is, I'm not aware of it. In other words, I think your department should indeed be immune to these budget cuts. If there's anything I've learned by reading this blog, it's that the LPD is a valuable model for doing the most with the least, especially when compared to other similar cities. There are several other city departments that could learn a lot from how you do things, and it is them that should be making the cuts. For the mayor and/or city council to suggest the same fixed-percentage cut across the board for all departments is both ignorant and irresponsible, as the safety and security provided by the LPD is far more important than many other things funded by Lincoln's coffers. If they can't be convinced of that fact, I would gladly pay the $0.13/month that the Journal Star claims it would cost the average homeowner to retain this valuable LPD service.

that's what she said...

Anonymous 9:08am for Mayor!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Looking at your 2008 annual rpt, how would early retirements fit into the cutting process. Looking at it, you have one officer over 40 years. One with in a year of 40 and quite a few over 30. Not knowing how the retirement requirements are layed out can this be looked at?

Scanner Listener...

South Island said...

A couple of thoughts... these are just my own personal opinions:

1) A lot of departments have stopped investigating non-serious car accidents. Generally, the public / media complains for a week or two, then moves on.

2) One strategy is to threaten to cut whatever the mayor, council etc. can't live without. Unfortunately, you have to be prepared to follow through if they call your bluff.

3) One area to make cuts might be to broadly shift focus toward non-consensual crimes with actual victims, as opposed to investigating consensual crimes with no identifiable victims.

4) No property tax increases in several decades seems unreasonable. Mind you, I live in a place where the opposite is occurring: year over year property tax increases of 5 - 15% for the last decade. I think both extremes are unsustainable.

It is a tough situation, and I think most people underestimate how difficult it is to be a police chief.

Good luck,

Dave

Anonymous said...

I think if I had to decide were I want my money to go accidents are the last thing on my mind. Atleast for ones that no one gets hurt. I have never been in a accident in Lincoln but in Omaha the cops never came and I got the other guys insurance check all the same. Yeah it would be nice for cops to be able make me feel better by giving the guy a ticket for turning in front of me. However after watching the news and seeing the major crime that has come to this nice city I would rather the chief do away with every thing that doesn't involve fighting crime. From what I have seen and read on this blog LPD is a small force for a relatively large city. Use the officers to catch criminals to keep Lincoln crime down (SAFE AND SECURE). I pay insurance for accidents.

Anonymous said...

Here's an idea for some money saving cuts: Community Outreach Specialist and Southwest Team Administrative Aide. I'd really like to hear why they would be considered beyond the reach of the budget cutting knife.

Anonymous said...

Under which City Department is the Housing Authority of Lincoln's budget hidden? I'd like to see how much taxpayer money they burn every year buying and maintaining residential property, as well as the total value of the residential property that they own (and thus keep off the tax rolls).

Tom Casady said...

8:33-

The housing authority is a sort of quasi-governemntal entity created by State law, and funded primarily by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. I don't think it receives any City funds, but I'm not the expert.

Google "Lincoln Housing Authority" and you can read all about it.

Anonymous said...

Now you have opened a can of worms!

LHA doesn't pay any taxes on the rents and profits it recieves from NON subsidised tenants or it's real estate.

Yes, ANYONE can apply to live in a LHA rental property - competing with private industry and many times shifting the market rents in an area.

The Real Estate Owner's And Manager's Association has repeatly requested they pay a fee "in lieu" of taxes, just as Lincoln Electric Systems does, but LHA refuses.

From the LHA web site you can find their annual report, the amount of real estate they own and manage, as well as list of their 48.7 million in net worth and 21 million in revenue.

http://www.l-housing.com/2008%20Annual%20Report%20Final.pdf

I recommend everyone read it annually.

Anonymous said...

I know many people involved in the auto insurance industry. I wouldn't consider this a scientific survey but it has been my impression that the police report is not considered when the insurance company is making decisions. As a matter of fact, they will conduct their own investigation of the incident and base their decisions on that investigation. Of course LPD provides some statistical information to the state through the reports, but that does not seem to be all that important when it gets right down to the money being spent. I say do away with the reports unless there is SERIOUS injury.

Katie said...

What about charging and administrative fee to cover the cost of producing and delivering a police report to the insurance companies? (Assuming it's legal to do so.) If there's already a charge, raise it. If it's really valuable to them, they'll pay for it. If not, your revenues will drop and you'll know it's a service you can cut.

Also, what about raising the fine on parking tickets by a couple of bucks?

Anonymous said...

How about levying a charge on people who make calls that are unnecessary? Make a call because McDonald's won't sell you McNuggets? That's a fine. Make a false report? That's a fine.

Also, let's take some minor legal infractions and just assess a fine. Forget the courts. Just an automatic fine.

How about rolling enforcement on some things. Certain days of the week, you won't enforce parking meters. But they change so no one knows when?

How about raising the $$ for people who speed in residential areas. Think about it? Its double in a construction zone where there are adults and they have bright colored clothes on. In a neighborhood, you have children darting out from behind cars. Double the fine for any area designated as residential.

Personally, I prefer a police officer show up at an accident if the other person is at fault. Not so much, if I am.

Anonymous said...

Every accident I've seen in Lincoln---needs an officer. Don't get cheap with the wrong things.

Tom Casady said...

Katie:

Maybe. Not sure exactly what laws if any you'd have to change. Politically, it would be a stretch to get that done. I know that some cities have actually billed insurance companies or drivers, with little or no collection success. There is apparently a legislative bill under consideration in Florida to ban this practice--somebody sent me a link to it but I can't find it right now.

Parking ticket fines go to the school districts, by State Constitution, although the City may retain a portion no greater than it's actual cost. Increasing the fine wouldn't help the City budget.

2:16-

Ditto on the fine issue. As for a fee to respond to a dumb CFS, that would certainly be a money-maker if you could do it, because there are plenty of those! Good luck collecting. Good luck getting enabling legislation passed. The normal argument on police fees is this: "I already pay taxes to support these services, how can you turn around and charge me for them? That's double taxation!"

I like that idea of "rolling enforcement." Keep 'em guessing, and you can accomplish a lot of deterrence with a smaller investment. That's exactly what we do with traffic enforcement and with a lot of problem-oreiented policing projects aimed at various enforcement-oriented problems--like high-risk illegal drinking parties.

Dave said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tom Casady said...

4:22-

Well, H&R can be really minor (the door ding) or really major. I think that if we don't respond to leaving-the-scene on private property, you're basically giving license to people to take off when they've backed into someone else's parked car without leaving their clue what your data source for that might be.

My suspicion is that we do pretty well. When the evidence is weak, the prospects are slim, but from what I hear insurance claims adjusters and the Department of Roads say, we stand out for the quality of our accident work. So it's a little hard for me to swallow that we are somehow incompetent underachievers on hit & runs.

The cheese stands alone said...

So, granted some of the bloggers are, aren't always the one's that bitch about stinky cheese, but the impression I get is that the general public is mad when LPD does selective traffic enforcement to catch those violating traffic laws, BUT dad gummit, you better punish that driver that ran into me because they committed a traffic violation. The "at fault" driver is going to have a consequence as it is, a bill from your car insurance agency. Or are they more satisfied with the $104 traffic citation?

Anonymous said...

Wow !!!!
What a slap in the face to the PSO's ! To minimize the contribution they make to LPD and the citizens of Lincoln to " Directing traffic at special events" is not only far from the truth but insulting as well! As a former PSO I know very well the wide range of duties they are called upon to perform. Yes they write parking tickets but they also assist with accident scenes of all types, from the little fender benders to fatalaties. They also assist at fires, gas leaks, ammonia leaks, bomb threats and suspicious packages, failed and malfunctioning traffic signals etc. PSO's are also used to help maintain the perimeter on crime scenes such as homicides robberies and swat calls so officers are free to do what they need to. They handle the majority of abandon bikes and vehicles, they find wanted and stolen vehicles, I could go on and on but I guess none of these things lend to providing safety and security !! Well at the very least the little things the PSO's handle free up hundreds of hours of officer time every year !
It's no wonder the PSO's get little respect from the public when they get no respect from their boss !

Tom Casady said...

8:39-

What in the world are you talking about? Does the term "PSO" or "public service officer" appear anywhere at all in this post or in the comments pertaining to this post?

I just told the Mayor and his staff at our budget hearing yesterday that cutting public service officers would be the functional equivalent of cutting the same number of police officers.

PSO's do work that would have to be done by sworn police officers otherwise, and they do a lot of it.

Anonymous said...

I believe what anonymour (May 1 8:39) is referring to was the radio interview that you did where you said that public service officers do not perform a safety funcion and therefore would be one of the most likely programs to cut. I would agree with him/her in the sense that I have seen them doing other things rather than just handing out parking tickets. I have seen them directing traffic at a fire or at an accident. I have seen them assisting officers at UNL football games. I certainly hope that the mayor takes the later of your suggestions and keeps them around. It seems like it is a valuable resource and I would hate to think that I have someone breaking into a house or car while a police officer is busy giving out parking tickets or doing a job that a public service officer could handle.

Tom Casady said...

11:47-

I'm getting exhausted from people "spinning" my comments. What's especially frustrating is that of any public official in the State, I'm the one you don't have to guess about or fill in the blanks for: I spill it out here almost everyday, and in the unlikely event I haven't already written my thoughts down, you can just ask!

I've never, ever, denigrated the work of our PSOs. What I've said is very simple: parking enforcement has very little to do with our mission--safety and security. Not all parking enforcement is done by PSOs, and PSOs do much more than just parking enforcement. If we weren't doing parking enforcement, there would be plenty of dispatches for PSOs to service that are far more important. There isn't any reason PSOs can't handle many more types of belated property crimes, for example.

We must plan for the potential of a significant cut in our budget. I have to prioritize all the various programs and activities we are engaged in, against that mission. Traffic crash investigation is a nice service, but contributes little to safety and security. Parking enforcement may be something the city values and wants, but contributes little to safety and security.

You could remove 3,000 parking meters tomorrow, and the city would be no less safe. We don't engage in parking enforcement to promote safety and security, we do it to generate revenue for the City, ensure turnover of parking spots for downtown businesses, and prevent the average citizens from having to look at the eyesore of the neighbor's 33 ft. RV parked on the street. These may be good things to do, but safety and security they are not.

If I had to stop some activity, in order to redeploy the resources (both sworn and non-sworn) to the most important duties that really do promote safety and security, parking enforcement is nowhere near the top of the list.

The investigation of crime contributes to public safety and security. Collection, preservation, examination, and comparison of physical evidence contributes to public safety and security. The processing of arrests, warrants, reports, and records contributes to safety and security. The analysis of crime and intelligence information contributes to public safety and security. Responding to calls for service contributes to public safety and security. Traffic law enforcement contributes to safety and security. The arrest of offenders contributes to public safety and security. Provision of crime prevention information and services contributes to public safety and security. Access to police reports and databases contributes to public safety and security. In-service training of police employees contributes to safety and security. Providing services to victims and witnesses contributes to safety and security. Managing the department's fiscal resources, ensuring its fleet is maintained,
caring for its physical facilities, and a whole lot of other things we do contribute to public safety and security.

But how does parking enforcement make you more safe, or more secure?
The same is true (for the most part) of the 300-field investigator's traffic accident report, the street measurements, and the diagram. Nice to have? Maybe. Make you safer? Doubtful.

PSOs who perform parking enforcement, however, contribute greatly to parking enforcement right now, because without them, police officers would be tasked with this job. That's why I'm separating the task (parking enforcement) from the employee group (police officers or public service officers).

Now, it may be that parking enforcement is so valuable for reasons other than safety and security that the citizens of Lincoln want to retain it. Fine. It may also be that the police department is the best place for that duty to reside, if the city is actually going to to it (that's what I believe.) But it's still unrelated to our core mission.

Anonymous said...

I find it funny that Ed 359 thinks we should keep taking accident reports when he had done maybe 10 accident reports in the last 10 years, not 5 or 6 on icy days. Cut out the non injury accident reports.

Tom Casady said...

11:24-

Now now, let's not exaggerate. He's handled 31 since 2001. I think Ed359 is on the same page with me: it may be important to respond to TAs to help citizens negotiate the path, but it might be possible for us to separate that from the detailed investigation that follows, at a considerable savings of time and effort.

I tend to think that the public backlash would be huge--despite the undeniable fact that our investigation is only remotely related to safety and security.

Everyone's entitled to an opinion, which is why I asked in the first place.