Police-Agency Consolidation May Not Yield Instant Savings


In Camden County, N.J., some local officials, as well as Gov. Chris Christie, have endorsed a countywide police force as a way to reduce costs and get more officers on the streets. Many police officers and suburban mayors remain skeptical, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. How such a force would be structured is still under review. The county is exploring having countywide services like a detective bureau and K-9 and SWAT units. Across the nation, towns often start talking about regionalization and consolidation when the economy sours and municipal budgets get tight. Experts say the decision needs to made methodically.

“The biggest problem is the myth of instant or quick savings,” said John Firman of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. “Careful, well-thought-out planning has to occur, because assumptions of savings are just [ ] simple assumptions.” Says Bernard Melekian, director of the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, “Right now, everybody is looking at it from a 30,000-foot view.” The major obstacle? Relinquishing local control, he said. New Jersey – home to 470 local forces, 11th-most in the nation – has four county police agencies. Nationwide, such agencies generally oversee unincorporated communities and some small towns, not a cluster of contiguous, heavily populated towns as in New Jersey.

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