Who Will Respond in the Meantime?

Over the last few decades, policing has evolved to be the catchall for societal ills that were previously not considered to be law enforcement related. The amount of police resources spent on non-criminal activity has been creeping up over the years, requiring agencies to take on more responsibility and driving decisions regarding enforcement directives. On May 25, 2020, a historic fracture occurred in the direction policing will take in the future. How policing will look moving forward remains to be seen. Demands appear to center around redirecting response of non-criminal events to entities other than the police.

If police will no longer be responsible for dealing with non-criminal activity, you won’t find many police agencies complain, but diverting that response is going to be like turning a cruise ship….. s l o w!

In the rush to defund police, many city leaders are becoming aware that there are no viable solutions for not having police services today. The future may see a host of community-based teams and trained personnel equipped to respond to non-criminal calls. We can all hope, right? In the meantime, it will likely continue to fall on police agencies to handle these non-criminal situations. But, how do agencies deliver these services whilst their budgets come under scrutiny and face cuts?

For police agencies to survive these cuts, they must quantify the resources required to respond to non-criminal calls, not only to protect their fragile budgets, but also to provide solid data for the next corp stepping up to take on that responsibility. How many co-responders, licensed social workers and therapists will communities need to hire? What days should they work? What hours should they work? Leaders will turn to police departments, those that have handled these crises, for answers. The smart thing for agencies to do right now is to start quantifying the services they provide the community and justifying the resources they currently need to defend their budget dollars.

Workload analyses consistently reveal that a large volume of patrol resources (including the number of officers that respond to calls, time spent by each officer on the calls, and ancillary patrol costs) are spent on non-criminal activities. Being homeless, transient or mentally ill is not a crime. However, calls that revolve around these circumstances are where the bulk of patrol resources continue being consumed. In the current era of policing, resource justification needs to be evidence-based. Police agencies need data to justify how much it costs in salary, benefits, equipment, and the like for non-criminal response. There’s a treasure trove of information that agencies can harness to justify the need for resources and help tell their stakeholders “don’t be so quick to cut our budget or here are the services we will no longer have the capacity to provide.”

With a detailed account of the resources they expend on non-criminal activity, police agencies can preserve budget dollars. Agencies can show stakeholders, including government leaders and the community, exactly what services, and how much of those services, their budget dollars are buying. If police agencies can’t justify how they are spending the money, the community is unlikely to give them any. In the below sample, the police agency can clearly illustrate how many non-criminal calls, how many officers responded to the calls, how much time each officer spent on the scene, and how much cumulative time was consumed (over 6,700 hours!) on just three non-criminal activities.

Sample analysis from Deploy Plus Report

While the future of policing is being hashed out amongst community leaders, there are still non-criminal events that need to be dealt with. The only entity currently able to handle these are the police. Presently there are no teams of trained personnel at the ready the next time a call is received about the person walking in and out of traffic talking to themself or the homeless camp that popped up behind a business overnight. Those calls will still land with the nearest police agency and, hopefully, there will be an available officer to send.

Deploy Plus by Corona Solutions easily and economically provides agencies with the tools to show stakeholders the exact services their budget dollars are buying. More importantly, it illustrates what services will be lost to budget cuts. Who will respond then?

Maintaining Officer Safety in the Midst of Budget Cuts

Police budgets were fragile before nationwide calls to Defund the Police became loud and impossible for government leaders to ignore. This, along with the economic downturn due to COVID-19, is forcing police agencies to do more wilth less. So how do you maintain officer safety with the availability of backup assistance while your staffing numbers decrease?

Police budgets were fragile before nationwide calls to Defund the Police became loud and impossible for government leaders to ignore. The economic downturn resulting from the COVID-19 crisis hit local budgets hard and fast. Law enforcement agencies were already on track to lose money they thought the economy would provide. Money they were planning to use for hiring more officers and increasing pay amongst other things. Those plans fell apart when the Safer-at-Home orders began and the revenue needed to supply those funds dried up. Now the push to decrease police budgets and divert the funding away from law enforcement is being thrust upon city and county leaders. This is forcing law enforcement to run much leaner than they have in the past.

Most law enforcement agencies were placed on a hiring freeze when the COVID-19 pandemic started, impacting local budgets. Now, those vacancies have become permanent, at least for the foreseeable future. Vacancies in the sworn contingent of law enforcement agencies are immediately felt in patrol operations. Patrol is where new police officer hires are predominantly placed, filling holes created by attrition and the cascade of promotions and reassignments that occur when tenured officers depart.

Patrol operations not only feel the impact of short staffing before other parts of the agency do, but they also are most affected by officer safety matters. Having officers available to respond, when you need them the most, is paramount to officer safety.

So, how do you ensure availability to maintain officer safety and meet the workload demands of your community while your staffing number decreases?

To accomplish this you must employ an evidence-based approach, one that illustrates exactly what the impact of short staffing will have to your patrol operations. Using a data-driven process not only allows you to see exactly when officer safety vulnerability occurs, but it also allows you to transparently define those risks for stakeholders.

Below, an evidence-based approach is used to determine the number of patrol officers needed to secure officer safety. In this example, the agency size and workload dictate that four officers should always be available for backup assistance if needed. For this agency, 105 patrol officers are needed across the schedule to meet that requirement. However, if the agency only has 95 patrol officers to deploy across the schedule due to budget cuts, then the security of having four officers available for backup assistance decreases to only 80% of the time. With this data, stakeholders can make informed decisions with the knowledge of the associated risks with reduced staffing numbers

At the same time, the agency can see what happens to their response time goal by reducing their patrol staff. In this example, if the agency wanted to attain an average response time of 7.5 minutes to emergency calls 75% of the time, they would need 116 patrol officers. If the agency only had 95 officers, as in the above example, they would only be able to attain a 7.5 minute response time average to emergency calls 30% of the time. Again, this provides the agency, stakeholders, and community a transparent, data-driven method to evaluate the effects of reduced staffing on service expectations.

Sample Graphs from Deploy Plus depicting Operational Goal requirements

Whether it’s due to direct budget cuts or redirecting funds, police agencies will need to figure out how to safely deploy and provide effective services with leaner resources. Using data to drive deployment decisions is smart policing.

The Deploy Plus platform by Corona Solutions is the most economical way for agencies to provide this level of transparency and high-level, evidence-based decision making. Contact us today to find out how your agency can adequately staff for officer safety in the midst of budget cuts.