Friday, August 7, 2009

Stimulus bill helps

Yesterday, Mayor Beutler announced that the City will be accepting a $679,136 Federal grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to fund four additional police officers. This was great news, and I deeply appreciate the support of the Mayor and the City Council during one of the toughest budget years in decades. The grant covers the entry level salary and basic benefits of four officers for three years. After that, the City has an obligation to retain the positions for at least one additional year.

Applications were submitted for nearly 40,000 officers nationwide, and only 4,699 were funded (24 in Nebraska). Lincoln was one of a handful of Nebraska agencies to succeed in the process. We can sure use the help. With the smallest police force per capita in the State and one of the smallest in the region (180th of the 194 cities with populations over 10,000 in Nebraska and its neighboring states), every little bit helps.

Lincoln is the 72nd largest City in the United States with a population of over 252,000 and we are a growing City. We are clipping along at about 1.5% annually, according to the most recent estimates from the Census Bureau. That means we are adding about 3,500 residents each year. That’s the size of Broken Bow, O’Neill, or West Point. I realize this won’t mean much to out-of-state readers, but trust me, Nebraskans will understand. Those cities all have high schools, parks, swimming pools, and a half-dozen police officers.

When you consider our current police force consists of 317 officers, you can just multiply that by 1.5% in order to calculate the number of officers needed to account for annual population growth. It’s 4.75 officers. Plus a quarter of the department—another 103 positions—are civilian support jobs, and those need to keep up with growth, too. The grant is a nice help that will at least keep us in the ballpark for population growth.

LPD has been shrinking since 1998, after a very good run in the 1990’s. The give you an idea how this has slipped, in order to be back at the 1998 high water mark of 1.39 officers per 1,000 population, we’d have to add 33 officers. We would still be the smallest in Nebraska, and we’d move up in the region to 170th smallest, wedged between two Missouri cities, Blues Springs and O’Fallon. The graph below depicts our trend (click to enlarge image),

The following table was added on request from a reader:


Anonymous said...

Can you make a graph of the simple number of police officers on the payroll over the same time frame? Has LPD staffing been growing and shrinking or is it just a slow growth that hasn't been keeping pace with the city population growth?

Tom Casady said...

6:26 -

Sure, I'll just add that at the end of the main post. LPD staffing has been growing, and grew faster than population during the 1990's. The trend since then, however, has not kept up with population growth, thus we have slipped back in relation to the size of the City.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting to go back and look at which individuals were Mayor during the years that the officers per 1k citizens was trending up, and also when it was trending down.

Steve said...

It's too bad that everyone who needed more officers didn't get them. It's a much better use of the money than many of the other things they've authorized. I'm glad we got a piece of the action, at least.

I'm sure your myriad of charts and graphs was instrumental in helping to get this approved. Good, work, Chief.

Trina said...

Shout out to O'Neill!

Tom Casady said...


Interesting, perhaps, but the real difference, IMHO, is the trendline in City tax revenue. Robust sales tax growth during the 1990's meant that we could take advantage of lots of federal funding.

Enzo said...

To anonymous 6:26---
Do you seriously have to ask if the Chief can make a graph of something?


Anonymous said...

I know it isn't cricket to criticize one's boss, nor his two predecessors. Nevertheless, a mayor who was willing to risk taking electoral heat for wanting to raise taxes, for the purposes of adding officers, sure wouldn't hurt, would it. They'd probably have to push it with the city council, maybe casting a very public tie-breaker vote, and also be willing to risk losing the next election. However, nearly every elected official's #1 priority, regardless of what they profess, is getting re-elected. That goes for city council members as well as mayors, especially if they've just made the move from a tiny state rep salary to a much larger city salary, and have no large pension to fall back on.

Tim said...

How does the Officer per Citizen ratio change if you factor out 'transient' college students?

And how does it change if you factor in UNL Police?

Tom Casady said...


Around 23,000 UNL students, but the great majority live off campus. Yes, UNL has a police force, but I think you would find that true almost everywhere you have a major university. It's certainly not apples and oranges to compare us to other cities in our size bracket and region. I don't think you could find a comparable city (quarter million) that does not have a significant university and a small college or three. It would be a project, but one could add in the size of all those college and university police forces if you had the time. No getting around it: we're small.

Trevor Brass said...

The grant was part of a federal stimulus for the recession, yet the new officers still have to go through a training program that takes at least 19 weeks. Doesn't the stimulative effect come too late in the economic malaise (which tend to raise crime level)? I know you appreciate it all the same --of course-- but isn't the time for this BEFORE the onus of the recession hits so the new officers are already on the streets when the uptick in crime happens?

South Island said...

Chief, does LPD have a reserve/auxiliary program? I looked at the dept web page but didn't see anything.

Anonymous said...

Trevor -

I wonder how you can predict a recession 6 months to a year before you're deeply in it.

Grundle King said...

"I wonder how you can predict a recession 6 months to a year before you're deeply in it."

I wonder how you can predict an end to the recession when you ARE deeply in it. I also wonder how 'stimulus' money can end a recession 2-3 years after a recession is predicted to end.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering about this grant and how it came about. Is this something that was brought to your attention through the goverement and then applied for or is this something you or one of your employees brought up? I know that you have officers/sergeants and civilian staff who write grants for the department and is this something they wrote up or was it all your doing?

Tom Casady said...

8:01 -

This grant funding is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act package--otherwise known as the stimulus bill. It received a huge amount of publicity, both in the public space and in policing circles, so everyone knew about it in our field.

The police department's Management Services Unit and Accounting Unit prepared the application.