Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Not exactly an innovation

I encountered this article last week, describing the Denver police chief's effort to replace some of the police officers working in support positions with non-sworn civilian employees.  From the data in the article, it appears that a little less than 15% of the employees at DPD are civilians.  This is significantly below the national average for United States cities, which is 22%.  Lincoln, by the way, is slightly above that average at 23%, and this percentage is likely to climb to around 30% by the end of the year.

Generally speaking, a high percentage of civilian employees is a good sign that a police department is operating efficiently.  Sworn police officers are expensive employees, for a number of reasons, when compared to non-sworn employees, and there are lots of jobs in policing that do not require arrest powers and law enforcement certification.  When these jobs are occupied by civilians, the taxpayers benefit.  In addition, specially-educated civilians are more likely to have the specific skills needed for many of these support jobs, compared to a police officer whose education and experience may have little bearing on the job at hand.

Using civilians more effectively is hardly an innovation in policing.  This is something that has been undertaken by enlightened police managers for decades.  Here in Lincoln, the golden age of "civilianization" was really in the late 1970's, although it has continued to the present.  The most recent position that transitioned from a sworn police officer to a civilian was the Crime Analysis Unit Manger, in 2010.  Here is a list of job titles at LPD that were once occupied by sworn police officers earlier in my career, and are now civilian.  It is a total of over 35 positions:

Crime Analysis Unit Manager
Crime Analyst
Idenfiication Lab Manager
Service Desk Supervisor
Police Service Specialist
Records Manager
Records Supervisor
Systems Supervisor
Systems Specialist
Administrative Officer
Property and Evidence Manager
Stores Clerk
Audio-Visual Technician


Anonymous said...

I grew up in Eastern Colorado and the Rocky Mountain News and KOA radio were the two main sources of information for our isolated farm. I remember the HUGE police scandal that took place in the Denver Police department in the 1950's. The Denver Post or the Rocky Mountain News archives can be accessed on the Library of Congress website. It makes for some very interesting reading and is an educational experience in bad policing and excellent investigative news reporting.

The "Thin Blue Line" concept of brotherhood can be good but it can also be bad. Having a civilian presence in the department may be good as a check and balance to prevent abuses of the Thin Blue Line.

Gun Nut

Steve said...

Is Public Safety Director on that list?

Michelle said...

The real question is do the civilian employees feel they are being used effectively? In an open setting without fear of recrimination, would they have suggestions that would improve things even more?