Monday, May 2, 2016

Reducing positions while maintaining service

I wrote in my last blog about the staffing challenges the budget for this fiscal year (which began Sunday) presented to our department. We now have worked out exactly where we are going to reduce positions, and I wanted to share that with our community. Keep in mind we are eliminating positions, not people. All the positions that are being reduced this year already were vacant or are expected to be vacated through attrition. Many of these spots have been vacant for years, so it's not as though we're embarking on a sudden reduction in force.

To balance our budget, we had to decrease our 1,457 sworn law enforcement positions by about 8 percent. As a comparison, that’s about the equivalent of the staffing of a whole suburban patrol division (like South, North or Shoal Creek patrol divisions) and then some. Of course we spread these reductions out to minimize the impact on neighborhoods as much as possible. And not all are in patrol. Some will be detective spots, others are training officers, and more.

Here is how eliminated positions break down in some of the most visible bureaus – Investigations and Patrol:

  • 24 from the Investigations Bureau (includes Violent Crime, Violent Crime Enforcement and Narcotics and Vice divisions)
  • 85 from the Patrol Bureau:
     - Central Patrol reduced by 24 positions to 162 officers
     - Metro Patrol reduced by 14 positions to 150 officers
     - East Patrol reduced by 17 positions to 155 officers
     - South Patrol reduced by 13 positions to 94 officers
     - North Patrol reduced by 9 positions to 92 officers
     - Shoal Creek reduced by 2 positions to 92 officers
     - Special Operations Division (includes Tactical Enforcement, Canine, Mounted Patrol, Helicopter and Bomb & Arson) reduced by 2 positions to 81 officers
     - Traffic Division reduced by 4 positions to 85 officers.

This undoubtedly puts more pressure on the officers in the field and increases caseloads for those in investigations. As I mentioned previously, continued reductions in force could lead to increased response times for 911 calls. But we’re doing what we can to abate that.

We’ve come up with a number of ways to help reduce the demand on patrol officers so they can spend the time needed to provide the service our residents expect and deserve, rather than running from call to call. Our Tactical Enforcement officers are increasingly responding to 911 calls for service. Officers in the Traffic Enforcement Division are helping secure crime scenes – a job that used to belong to district officers. This frees the district officers up to answer calls or help with the on-scene investigation. I’ve shifted our Hot Spot program to put officers into the areas that are most in need of police attention. They’re working on everything from seeking out parole absconders and violent crime suspects to helping with community clean-ups and neighborhood meetings. You can read more about those changes in last month’s Informant newsletter.

We’ve realigned several things in investigations to streamline casework and ensure detectives properly follow up with all cases. Our Quality Control Unit is working with officers and detectives to ensure the best cases possible are presented for prosecution, which should help assist detectives as they take on more work.

We're always looking at ways to improve our efficiency. One of the things we're currently examining is how officers' shifts are scheduled. We must work within the budget we are allocated. As you read in my last blog, we have made many cost-cutting moves over the last few years. With law enforcement under more scrutiny than ever before, we will continue to serve our city with professionalism and integrity, no matter the circumstances or budget.

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