Monday, July 14, 2014

Still holds true after 112 years

Long-time readers of my blog have heard me whine from time-to-time about the size of the Lincoln Police Department: smallest per capita in Nebraska, one of the very smallest in our region and nation, getting smaller with each passing year.  Looks like this is nothing new:


Capt. Joy Citta came across a great online archive of 19th and early 20th century newspapers at the Library of Congress website, and passed the link onto me. The May 24, 1902 edition of The Courier has a nice front-page story about the Lincoln Police Department. You can access the full story here.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

With the increasing population of Lincoln, does the decreasing number of Officers per capita raise any concern for Officer Safety within LPD? (The news said LPD hasn't really grown since 2009?) It seems logical that when a city grows, so would the need for Officers? How do we ensure the safety to the public and LPD Officers when we allow Officer per Capita to drop to such low percentages? What is the Officer per 1,000 persons ratio now and what is considered 'favorable' to Chief Peschong?

Tom Casady said...

6:57,

There has been a huge decline in crime since 1991 in Lincoln (and nationwide), and LPD has instituted several changes to reduce the number of incidents officers are dispatched to. This has resulted in the workload actually declining, as the department has gotten progressively smaller in per capita terms. My sense is that the public has tolerated these changes well, but I think the low-hanging fruit has already been picked, and further service cuts will hurt.


There is no magic number. You need enough police officers to deliver the services people expect safely. As this old headline points out, it's been done with far less police officers per capita in the past. And although we are very small, you'll find and few places like Iowa City, Fort Collins, and Fremont, CA that hare pretty much the same.

For 15 years, I said that 1.5 officers per thousand would be about right for Lincoln. We got to 1.39 in 1998, but have slid downhill sense then, and with the current financial and political situation in municipal government in the United States, I think it is highly unlikely. I'd be pleased if we could just keep pace with population growth for a few years, but I fear that won't happen, either. You don't see much enthusiasm among candidates, elected office holders, or the general public for increasing taxes these days.

Anonymous said...

Help, I'm a stuck database report! Free me from July 8th...

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your response. It's unfortunate. I fear the lack of support will result in less people applying for such positions resulting in less qualified people getting hired. The Officers I know are all well educated and could easily find employment in a job with better pay, hours, and without the public scrutiny police work encounters today. I watch the verbal abuse Officers take downtown and can't imagine people ever desiring to be a police officer in this day and age. Pray for the Officer's safety and good will to continue in such a dangerous/demanding profession.

6:57

Tom Casady said...

9:07,

You have been released from Limbo. Thanks for letting me know!

Anonymous said...

How does your Fire Dept. stack up in relation to population? What staffing criteria do you use to determine Fire and Rescue personnel numbers? Is it calls for service or hours of coverage at each station? Or something else? Tradition? NFPA standards? Peer agencies?

Tom Casady said...

10:32,

Lincoln Fire & Rescue is also small per capita--although there is not a readily-available source for nationwide data on fire & rescue employment, as there is for police (the annual FBI UCR).

For fire & rescue coverage, one of the most important considerations is travel time: you'd like to maximize the number of places where a life-threatending medical emergency or fire could occur that are more than four minutes travel time from the nearest station. This, in turn, predicts the number of stations you need, and their workload would dictate how many companies each of those stations would need. See my prior series on this subject.

Spelling Police said...

'but have slid downhill sense then'

Technically not misspelled, just the wrong word used.

Anonymous said...

Another unfortunate problem created by the City that won't be corrected until someone gets killed or seriously injured.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:17: I would say this is not technically a problem caused by the City but one that can be laid at the feet of an extremely tax averse population. The City is merely being responsive to the directions of a populace that signals its reluctance to pay for anything.

Anonymous said...

Does the Lincoln population include the college population as well? It seems to me that if you included all the other police agencies in Lincoln (such as UNLPD, BNSF, LSO) the ratio may change a little? This doesn't include all the state agencies that investigate cases in and around Lincoln.

Tom Casady said...

12:20,

It is true that there are other agencies with some law enforcement roles in Lincoln, but that is also true in every other city of this size. They, too, have state patrols, sheriffs, university police departments, and so forth.

Anonymous said...

What has the LPD employment levels and ratios been over the past 10 years? Is there someplace we would be able to find this information?

Anon 12:17 said...

@11:04 no one wants to pay more in taxes. I think that is human nature. The City not having enough guts to raise taxes to help keep it's citizens and existing officers safe cannot be laid at the feet of the tax payer. The tax payer won't be the one getting used because the City didn't have enough officers. The tax payer will however help pay the bill for that lack of attention.

I guess the parks will look nice though since the City wants to increase the number of park personnel.

Anonymous said...

I would be willing to pay a lot more in taxes (and last year, my prop taxes were about $6600). And I am a soon-to-be retiree, so my $34K a year income will drop to zero). I use the services the city provides, like libraries, parks, roads, etc. I wish them to be in serviceable condition beyond "looking nice."

Steve said...

I would not consider Lincolnites any more averse to taxes than any other place. Seems most often any bond issues that come up are passed, and often by a considerable margin.

@9:35

That seems like an awful lot of property tax for someone making $34K per year. Perhaps you inherited property, or you're already semi-retired. I own three properties in Lincoln, and my combined property taxes don't come to that much. My last year of full-time work paid about $60K, and my wife makes as much as I did. I guess it doesn't really matter; it just hit me as odd.

I think it should be up to the police chief and the director whether to advocate for more police officers. If they feel we are adequately staffed, I see no reason for an increase. On the other hand, I think police and fire rank well above parks and pools and libraries on the list of things we need to fund with our taxes.

Anonymous said...

Another reason to support local businesses instead of avoiding paying taxes by purchasing online.

Anonymous said...

9:35--if your income drops to 0 you should be able to get the homestead exemption with no problem,so don't expect tears from me

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that when you were chief you were always saying how Lincoln needed more cops. Now, according to the article in the LJS, you are advocating that nice parks keep the crime down. Just what is it and why the change in your opinion

Tom Casady said...

8:45,

Cities need lots of things to function well and to be safe: good schools, good neighborhoods, good utilities, good infrastructure, and yes, even good parks. They also need an adequate supply of police officers, firefighters, dispatchers, and paramedics. The problem is that all of these needs compete with one another for the limited tax dollars available. We have applied for a grant to help fund two additional police officers, which I as hopeful will be successful. We will know by the end of September.

Anonymous said...

8:45 - Glad he could answer the question. Wow Tom, you are becoming more of a politician everyday. You used to push to get the department up to 1.5 officers per 1,000 residents, and now the department is at it's lowest point since before you were chief. 1.20 officers per 1,000 residents in 2013. I'd say politics had lead you away from the safety of your residents and the officers who work to try and keep things safe.

Tom Casady said...

3:52,

Do you really think that all one needs to do to get more money for the police or fire department is to pound their shoe on the table? Really?

The City of Lincoln, like virtually every other city in the United States, is just now clawing its way out of the biggest economic recession since the Great Depression 80 years ago. During the past seven years, 10% of the City's civilian workforce has been lost, despite the population growing by around 20,000. We're relatively lucky we haven't lost police officers and firefighters: check out what's gone on for police and fire departments in many other U.S. cities.

How many candidates for public office do you see who are running on a platform of increasing taxes to improve municipal services? Let me answer that for you: none.

A sensible strategy is to make hay while the sun shines. The overcast is just now beginning to break up, which is why I am optimistic.

Anonymous said...

Who is running for public office, you? Since you have failed to post anything else I have written, I'll just say I agree with 3:52, and add it seems like you are saying what the Mayor wants to hear.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 12:20

Good luck getting the State Patrol, LCSO, UNLPD, BNSF, or any of the other agencies in Lincoln to respond to your dog at large or loud music complaint within the city limits.