Many police departments around the U.S. will be required to make fundamental changes in their operations to survive the nation’s ongoing economic challenges, says Leonard Matarese of the International City/County Management Association. Speaking yesterday to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance national conference in Washington, D.C., Matarese said that many police departments are using an “obsolete” model that “is no longer sustainable.” He frequently is called in to consult with cities with severe fiscal problems.
Despite longstanding research showing that police departments should not attempt to answer every call for service, Matarese said that even some large police departments insist on sending officers to every citizen call, no matter how minor. This wastes manpower that could be better used on vital matters, he said. Matarese predicted that as more cities lurch toward bankruptcy, they will seek cheaper law enforcement services from the private sector and will try to convert more uniformed officers’ duties into civilian positions. He believes that jurisdictions increasingly will try to combine functions of police officers and firefighters. The BJA conference concludes Wednesday.