Doing more with less is the new reality for police upper management. Careful financial management has always been necessary. These days doing more with less is a critically-important component of successful law enforcement.
Up until the very recent past, making budget dollars stretch was a short-term, Band-Aid solution, often deployed at the end of a physical year or possibly the result of some unforeseen and temporary circumstances. In these challenging financial times, lean and entrepreneurial policing is now an integral part of policy and procedure.
Departments may not replace personnel lost through attrition. Sworn positions may be evaluated to determine if civilians can accomplish the same task. Full-time personnel may be converted to part-time to save salary and benefit expense. Departments may use interns and volunteers to save money. Scheduling changes can often save budget dollars and increase officer job satisfaction.
Some departments are moving toward 12-hour shifts for uniform patrol. This solution may not work everywhere, especially in smaller department lacking depth in personnel. There are pros and cons to using 12-hour shifts. Senior executives should carefully consider if this solution is appropriate. They must carefully monitor injuries and vehicle accidents to ensure that officer fatigue does not negatively impact the department. However, 12 hour shifts do place more officers on the street at the same personnel cost.
Departments may also evaluate whether a switch from the traditional police car paint job to decals is appropriate. Police executives must carefully evaluate purchases made for them by other areas of city government. It is a common practice for one municipal office to negotiate purchases for many city departments. This often makes good financial sense, but such purchases and any resulting savings should be carefully tracked in financial reports.
There are no easy answers these days in police budgeting. The competent police professional will ensure that all stakeholders are involved in preliminary budget discussions. Rank and file employees must understand and cooperate with changes so that the implementation process is efficient and effective. All personnel levels need to understand the problem. Senior police managers and executives should seek out the thoughts of subordinates as they initiate change.
Personnel must feel that their dedication and service to the department is appreciated. Police executives must stress that that changing financial times have forced management to adopt a more with less approach, not any lack of respect for personnel.
All staff members may not be persuaded to support the changes, but they will remember that management reached out. They will remember having input as stakeholders in the process. If morale is not maintained within a department, then more will not be accomplished with less. Rank and file personnel must play an active role.
Effective management generates effective policing. Doing more with less will enhance the quality of policing. Law enforcement will learn to streamline procedures, eliminate unnecessary paperwork, collaborate effectively with other agencies, and accomplish the tasks at hand on a professional level with fewer personnel.
At the end of each tour, each officer must remain standing when more is asked of them than ever before.