Community Policing Threatened As Cities Cut Back Police Forces


After years of expanding and taking on new duties, police chiefs say they have little choice but to retrench for economic reasons, reports the Wall Street Journal. Since January, Tulsa has laid off 89 police officers, 11 percent of its force. That has pushed the city to the forefront of a national movement to revamp long-held policing strategies. Threatened are community-policing initiatives created over the past two decades, such as having officers work in troubled schools, attend neighborhood-watch meetings and help small-business owners address nuisance crimes like graffiti. Such efforts are popular, and some experts credit them with contributing to the steady drop in the national crime rate since 1991.

“Departments are pulling back to their Alamo–providing patrols and responding to calls for service,” says Jason Stamps, director of professional training at the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety. Cuts have swept communities from Stockton, Ca., to Naperville, Il., depleting some departments to 1980s-era staff levels. In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg vowed not to lay off cops, but tight budgets have slowed hiring so much that the force is down about 12 percent from 2000, with more attrition expected. The Journal explores in some detail how the police cutbacks are playing out in Tulsa.

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