To cope with budget cuts, many police departments are taking reports of non-violent incidents by phone or asking that they be submitted by victims via forms on Web sites. This was among several recession trends discussed by a panel of chiefs at the International Association of Chiefs of Police convention this week in Denver.
While most money-saving measures center on personnel cuts, no chief wants to reduce response time to major calls for service. Grand Junction, Colo., police saved $1 million in officers’ time over 5 years by responding only to “verified” calls, said Police Chief John Camper. Crime prevention programs are among the first to get the ax. Chief David Dial of Naperville, Ill. shut down his department’s prevention unit even though it won a statewide award in 2007. While attending IACP, Dial got word that he has to cut his budget 12 percent more by next Monday. Lamented Chief Richard Myers of Colorado Springs, Colo., “We’re dismantling really effective police programs; it’s depressing.” Chief Thomas Casady of Lincoln, Neb., had a slightly more upbeat take, saying that budget cuts had made his department more efficient. Among changes Casady doesn’t regret: ignoring calls about barking dogs and lost cell phones, and cutting staff assigned to the DARE drug-education progam, which studies have found ineffective. Casady urged his colleagues to think about generating more revenue. Lincoln took in $120,000 by selling criminal histories on the Web at $10 each, public records that people could have received free by visiting a police station.