Wednesday, October 7, 2009

All in the same boat

I was part of a panel discussion Monday with the police chiefs in Lakewood, CO, Naperville, IL, Colorado Springs, CO, Plano, TX, and Fremont, CA. The topic was the economic crises, and it's impact on police departments. To varying degrees, all of our cities are under financial stress and have had to handle cut backs.

As each of us described what we had done to cope with flat or declining municipal revenues, there was a remarkable degree of similarity in the strategies. We all seem to have the same philosophical approach: when your resources aren't keeping up, you drop back to your core responsibilities, and you cut those services that make the smallest contribution to safety and security of the community.

Hearing about some of the problems faced by some of the other cities made me feel fortunate. The depths of the cuts in some of these communities are sobering. Virtually all municipal police departments and City governments are in the same boat, but ours is bobbing pretty safely compared to some where the water is up to the gunwales.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

nice

Anonymous said...

Chief,
what are some examples of cut backs of services provided to the citizen that the other departments had to make?

Tom Casady said...

Verified response to alarms only, more telephone reporting, pulling out of special events, reducing the size of specialized units (and eliminating some entirely), were common examples. In Lincoln, for example, we have eliminated about 10,000 police responses annually to things that we just don't do anymore:

Private property traffic accidents
Funeral escorts
Keys locked in vehicles
Barking dogs
Money transfers
Lost or stolen cell phones
Gas drive offs
Most medical emergencies

We discontinued the Citizen Police Academy, significantly reduced the crime prevention staff, pulled school resource officers back from elementary schools, stopped teaching DARE, dramatically reduced the number of intersections where we station officers before and after football games, and inside Memorial Stadium. There are probably a few others I'm not thinking of right now.

Anonymous said...

I think "nice" is becoming the equivalent of "first post" lately. Anyway, I can really understand the verified alarm response only thing. There are so many user errors at the door and keypad, as well as motion detectors that are either incompetently installed or that have some ditz hang promotional banners (that move when the ventilation runs) in their covered area.

If the citizenry wants to free up some officers for those little things that you listed, the most careless of them could do a few simple things:
- Stop leaving your cars unlocked.
- Stop leaving your cars unlocked and running.
- Stop leaving loot visible through the windows of your car (yes, this includes your removable faceplate).
- Stop leaving your purses, wallets, and phones unattended in a public place at any time. This includes at bars, in stores, and pretty much anywhere.

If careless people would change those careless behaviors, it would free up a lot of your officers for other things, because the victimization of idiots probably generates a lot of reports.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry to hear that the Citizens Academy is no more. As a graduate of the program, I learned so much about the department and the challenges you all face on a daily basis. I think it was a great PR tool, and I hope that someday you'll be able to reinstate it.

Trevor Brass said...

It's too bad more municipal governments don't create a rainy day fund as a ballast against the budgetary effect of recessions (they tend to happen every few years, after all). When the sun is shining, people want their taxes cut as much as possible, thus less muni. spending. When things get cloudy economically, the paring down of the fat is even more severe. In short, it's always cloudy where I see it.

Steve said...

I was a bit surprised that gas driveoffs was on the list of things you don't respond to anymore. I suppose there's not much reason to respond if you can get the available information over the phone. Still, didn't we send an officer out to investigate the stolen newspaper?

I agree it's too bad you had to dispense with the Citizen's Academy, as well as some of the other public services you used to do. I'd bet most of your readers would rather have more tax money go to LPD than spending it on studies for the feasability of various "visionary" projects.

Tom Casady said...

Steve,

Actually, we will still respond and investigate, but only if the business has:
1) a license plate number or equally-unique description;
2) an employee who can identify the driver.

Without these, we were just spinning our wheels. We met with the major retailers prior to adopting this approach, and everyone was on the same page. It's reduced the load by over 80%--roughly 1,000 cases per year.

The demise of the Citizen Academy is among the reasons I decided to start this blog. We cut back to one per year rather than two, and then ultimately had to axe the single class. As much as I liked it, the fact of the matter is that we were reaching a very small number of people.

Chief David Dial, of Naperville, IL was lamenting the fact that his Crime Prevention Unit was honored as the best in 2007, and this year he had to close down the entire unit.

Anonymous said...

What is "looking into it"
You use the phrase and it sounds sort of retarded.

Anonymous said...

Chief, speaking of money and budget issues. Is the department having another recruit academy in January? And if so, how many recruits are you able to hire this time? I remember seeing in the news awhile back about being given funding more a few more officers.

Tom Casady said...

7:47-

Look into is a very common English idiom meaning investigate, as in:

"We’re aware some users are having trouble accessing YouTube videos. We’re looking into it, and we’ll update everyone soon."

Tom Casady said...

1:34-

Yes, we are going through testing and selection for that class right now. Looks like it will probably be between 15 and 20.

ARRRRG!!!! said...

I like the sinking ship reference.