The recession is forcing some police agencies to close precincts, merge with other departments, or even shut down, USA Today reports. Once largely spared from deep budget cuts, some police departments are struggling to provide basic services. Police departments “may have to change how they do business,” says Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum. “People will see a change in the basic delivery of services,” from longer police response times to a dramatically reduced police presence in some communities.
Harlan Johnson of the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association said political leaders are “choosing whether they keep the streets open or the police on patrol.” It’s too early to tell whether the changes will increase crime. The new federal $787 billion law gives about $4 billion to local law enforcement, including $1 billion to hire and retain officers. The hiring money has not been distributed, and applicants have requested more than is available.