As the Denver City Council and Mayor John Hickenlooper discuss how many new police officers to hire, comparisons with other cities show Denver’s Police Department is already better staffed than those in most cities of its size, says the Denver Post. Experts warn that expanding a police force is not necessarily the path to reducing crime. Police Chief Gerald Whitman is seeking 267 new officers, a 19 percent increase for a force that is already better staffed per resident than those in San Diego; Oklahoma City; Seattle; Portland, Or.; or Austin, Tx. After retirements, Whitman’s request would translate to a net gain of 152 officers. Hickenlooper’s staff slashed the request to a net gain of 22 officers. Some City Council members are seeking an additional 40.
Even Hickenlooper’s more modest expansion would keep Denver’s department in the top 10 for cities its size, while the crime rate is in the bottom third. Whitman said Denver – with 2.35 officers per 1,000 residents – lags behind the national median of three per thousand. The FBI says the median for cities with a population of more than 250,000 is 2.8 officers per 1,000 residents. “People have the perception that when they see more police and patrol cars, they are safer. But that isn’t the reality,” said John Campbell, president of Campbell Delong Resources, which helps cities construct policing plans. “What people need to ask and have answered is, ‘If we hire more officers, what will be different? Where will they be? What is the plan?”‘ Historical and current data indicate that reducing crime does not necessarily go hand in hand with hiring more cops. “There needs to be a hard analysis, looking at workloads, methods of response, crime trends,” said Michael Scott, a professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School and former police chief in Lauderhill, Fl. “The political discussion of ‘we need more police’ is usually simplistic. The policy discussion is more difficult.”