stage has been set for profound change in the way states, counties, cities,
villages and townships protect their citizenry. Prolonged economic distress in
parts of the nation coupled with lessening tax revenue from businesses,
industry and citizens may prove to be fatal to many local law enforcement
agencies. Public safety revenues, for the most part, have been dwindling since 2008
when the current prolonged “recession” began. The failure of the American
economy to “Jump start” itself has resulted in budget reductions and leanness
in the ranks as “non-essentials” have been eliminated to reduce costs.
some of these “non-essentials” have included hundreds of full-time jobs (turned
into part-time jobs to save benefit costs or simply eliminated), vehicle
replacement, training, uniform reimbursements, etc. Administrators are faced
with the challenge of “making budget” while meeting ever-increasing demands for
public services. The situation for many agencies brings to mind an old adage: How
do you rob Peter to pay for Paul?
enforcement and fire fighting are two of the critical services, which state and
local government has provided to citizens throughout the nation. They are also
two of the three public functions (the third being education) most devastated
by current economic realities. What options do state and local officials have
to meet this challenge? Besides reducing staffing even more, or negotiating
income/benefit reductions, what strategies offer hope for success in this
regard? If appropriate action isn’t taken on these matters quickly, some of
American’s smaller law enforcement agencies are destined to simply disappear.
few options come to mind, which might prove sufficient to balance the operating
realities of agencies with the realities of their workloads and budgetary
constraints. Assess currently delivered public services and modify or eliminate
as many as possible to reflect current economic capabilities of agencies.
the department’s mission statement accordingly. Evaluate the possibility of
charging reasonable minimal fees for non-emergency yet essential services. Utilize
new technology to share information and allow minor-incident reporting via Internet-based
social media, i.e. web-sites, Facebook, tablets, cell phones, etc.
residents who don’t have Internet capabilities or skills to utilize “snail
mail” to document minor property-related offenses. Utilize carefully selected
and well-trained volunteers to perform some of the functions traditionally
assigned to paid personnel. Share and reduce operating costs by creating
multi-jurisdictional economic mutual-aid consortiums to reduce facilitate
purchasing, motor vehicle fleet management, health insurance, uniform
replacement, laboratory work, radio system operation, and hiring. Engage in as
much multi-jurisdictional training as possible.
costly auxiliary services such as background investigating, jail operations,
vehicle maintenance, cleaning and housekeeping, courthouse and agency security,
and prisoner transportation. Share expensive critical assets including
personnel, equipment, narcotics units, SWAT teams, aircraft, watercraft,
vehicles, headquarters, training facilities, radio equipment, weapons, etc. When
appropriate, consolidate agencies to create a synergetic effect beneficial to
agencies and taxpayers alike.
is not a time for police officials to be territorial or stubborn. It does
create an opportunity for courageous officials to step up and seek new
solutions before elected officials are forced to initiate action themselves. Law
enforcement officials who are proactive in this regard might be able to avoid
cuts initiated by well-meaning yet unaware council persons, trustees or
commissioners who have no option but to cut, cut, cut!
would be wonderful if the traditional American policing model could maintain
itself without major modification, but that’s highly unlikely given the world’s
economic and political turmoil.
Eliminate agencies and jurisdictions that no longer can be justified in
terms of an objective cost versus benefit analysis. The choice is simple: Act
now or follow later. Agencies that are no longer justified in the minds of
citizens or political leaders may soon disappear from the ranks of the Thin
Blue Line forever.
Chief J.T. McBride (Ret.) is the basic
police academy Commander Emeritus and an adjunct criminal justice instructor at
Lakeland Community College and a 40-year veteran of Ohio law enforcement. He
may be reached at email@example.com.