Half of all U.S. police departments had to cut their budgets an average of 7 percent between the 2009 and 2010 fiscal years, the Police Executive Research Forum reports today. PERF is holding a summit meeting in Washington, D.C., of police chiefs and other officials to discuss whether budget cuts are causing fundamental changes in policing. Of departments whose budgets were cut this year, 59 percent are preparing to cut their budgets again next year, the survey found.
The survey, answered by 608 police departments, found a 3 percent drop in the average number of sworn officers between FY 2009 and FY 2010. Police chiefs overwhelmingly say that when budgets must be cut, they give highest priority to maintaining sworn officer positions. Because personnel costs can account for 90 percent or more of police budgets, it is difficult to make enough cuts elsewhere, they say. Among other findings: 55 percent of responding law enforcement agencies have cut back or eliminated plans to acquire technology; 68 percent have reduced or discontinued training; 38 percent have discontinued special units such as gang or drug enforcement units, and 66 percent of departments have cut overtime spending.