In the summer of the George Floyd riots, many of the usual suspects came out with the latest cure for all social ills, “defund the police.” They would take millions from police departments and funnel that money into “social programs,” alleviating the need for police. They would “fix the problem before it begins.”
But anyone who’s looked at this knows it’s a sequel to a very bad movie. The Great Society anyone? I find it interesting that many of the leftist pushing defunding of cops are spending a fortune on personal security services. The Squad ladies and gentlemen?
Like any government organization, law enforcement tends to become wasteful of resources. It too has the primary reason to exist of any bureaucracy: To exist. To insure its own survival. And I know the people pushing to “defund” the police are as radical as they come (and will not suffer the pain of what they inflict on others). However there are legitimate ways to get more from the manpower you already have. One obvious way is don’t have peace officers doing the work of civilians.
A few years back our chief of police put out a survey, asking each person employed by the department “How can we do things better than we are doing now?” Off the top of my head I wrote, “Use civilians for payroll.” One station I worked at had a civilian in payroll till she retired. She was replaced by an officer (taken from the streets), and when that officer promoted, she was replaced by another officer. That’s manpower off the streets, and the “payroll clerk” (i.e. the cop taken from the street) is now at least 30% more expensive than before.
I caught this article last week, and it reminded me of this issue.
The review found that these officers perform duties that in other cities are done by civilians
By Anna Orso
The Philadelphia Inquirer
PHILADELPHIA —Nearly 900 positions within the Philadelphia Police Department that are currently held by sworn police officers could be filled by civilians, according to researchers at the University of Pennsylvania who last year studied the department’s makeup.
The review, which the city authorized in 2020, found that these officers perform duties that in other cities are done by civilians, who typically earn less, have no arrest power, and don’t carry firearms.
Nearly 900 positions within the Philadelphia Police Department that are currently held by sworn police officers could be filled by civilians.
Researchers found that hundreds of sworn officers primarily work at front desks, perform data entry, or issue permits. Dozens are court liaisons, office managers, or human resources officials. Six transport mail between police districts. Eight manage graphic design work, and a handful are grant writers.
In total, about 11% of Philadelphia’s 7,000-employee department are civilians, the researchers found. That’s fewer than in most large departments — civilians make up nearly a quarter of total staff among agencies nationwide that serve jurisdictions with more than 1 million people.
The study authors presented their findings to top police brass, including Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, in August 2021. They contended in the report that “civilianizing” parts of the force could result in a more diverse department with improved efficiency and productivity. There could be cost savings through payroll reductions, they said, though they didn’t specify a dollar amount…
…While a large-scale restructuring is unlikely in the short-term, the review is guiding potential changes, including a push to hire civilians to fill some district-level administrative roles as the force faces a historic staffing shortage, with more than 500 officer vacancies.
Outlaw has expressed support for civilianizing some roles, saying during a spring budget hearing before City Council that she has particular concerns about police officers in administrative positions or delivering mail…
The benefits of using civilians for certain rolls is obvious. A civilian can be taught to man the front desk of a station, take accident or offense reports, handle basic questions (e.g., where to get copies of reports for insurance, etc.). And they can do it at much lower cost than a cop. Civilians do not require nearly the training a peace officer does, and they are not issued thousands of dollars of equipment (weapons, body armor, etc.).
But the savings are more than that. As you free up officers from admin duties, that lessens the load of the officers already deployed. Overburdened officers require more overtime (e.g., finishing reports at the end of shift). In the mid-2000s, my agency was seriously short on manpower. As I was getting off duty at 10:00 pm, I passed a friend who was coming on the night shift. I returned at 1:00 pm the next day, and I saw her at a computer. I asked if she was in early, “No Mike, I haven’t gotten off yet.” She had been on shift for fifteen hours. And filling up her comp bank which will be paid at some point.
Additionally, when you have manpower shortages, often departments bring in officers off duty to back up people during their regular hours. If it’s for pay or compensatory time, it’s money out of a budget.
The only solution is to have stations and other bureaus manned as fully as possible. As police all over the country are having recruiting problems, this is problematic. Recruiting civilians is generally not as difficult an issue. Replacing cops with civilians in select areas will help during a very difficult time.
Michael A. Thiac is a retired Army intelligence officer, with over 23 years experience, including serving in the Republic of Korea, Japan, and the Middle East. He is also a retired police patrol sergeant, with over 22 years’ service, and over ten year’s experience in field training of newly assigned officers. He has been published at The American Thinker, PoliceOne.com, and on his personal blog, A Cop’s Watch.
Opinions expressed are his alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of current or former employers.
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