Police departments all over are experiencing financial struggles due to the current economic situation. Training, equipment and manpower are all feeling the impact.
Departments are often run with the belief that income must originate from the municipality they serve. This outdated theory works well in good times, but as funds dry up this theory is far too inefficient. And what happens as a result of this inefficiency? The safety of officers and citizens suffers.
Another problem that presents itself is that many administrators become stuck in the past. Always looking back to “how we’ve done it for years” for solutions instead of coming up with new and more effective means of policing. Often, when officers suggest a new concept in policing they are shutdown by the “old timers.” It becomes understood that coming up with ideas isn’t something that is good for their careers. And this leads to hostility between the rank & file officers (attempting to better their work environments) and the administration. This hostility leads to a breakdown in communication that will, undoubtedly, lead to further problems.
Every department has officers that are workers. These are the guys that go out everyday looking to better their towns by locking up the bad guys, seizing funds used in criminal activity, writing tickets, seizing guns, drugs and stolen property. These workers can be the salvation of a struggling department. A well-trained, hard-working K9, narcotics, patrol or TAC unit can bring in more money than they cost if utilized properly.
The first step in a solution to the financial pinch is to take egos out of the equation. Allow officers to do their jobs to the best of their abilities by reducing the overburden put on them by their department.
The second step is to make sure these units have the training, equipment and full support of the department. Once these two things have been provided, a truly hard-working unit can bring in more money through seizures and tickets than they cost the department.
The next step is to provide each unit with its own bank account. For every seizure that unit makes, the money would then go directly into their fund. When equipment, training or overtime needs to be paid, it can come out of those accounts. This leaves the department with the simple responsibility of paying salaries, insurance and standard maintenance as they would with any other officer. This way, each unit is responsible for its own funding and, as such, can easily be proven effective or ineffective. At the end of the year, each account is brought down to a level that will allow the unit to function for a few months. The rest flows into the general fund of the police department therefore relieving the financial burden put on the department by non-productive officers.
This solution can be put into practice no matter the size of the department, the demographic of the municipality or the funding of the department. When combined with an accurate count of guns, drugs and other cases made, it will quickly show which units are most effective. The officer that makes 70 felony arrests a year may not bring in a huge amount of money, but a felony arrest is given the same value as a seizure allowing all hard-working, upstanding officers to be recognized.
The last step in this solution is to promote those effective officers into leadership roles in order to allow them to positively influence the newer officers to be productive members of their police departments.
Dealing with crime is a costly endeavor.
As a unit becomes more effective it can have a dramatic and positive impact on crime rates. This, in turn, saves the department money. Lower crime rates equate to nicer houses being built and more taxes being paid to that municipality. Thus providing a long-term solution to the underfunding of police departments.