Police departments beset by budget problems should not make the mistake of cutting community policing in order to emphasize faster response to calls for service, criminologist George Kelling of Rutgers University warned a Police Executive Research Forum session on the economic downturn and policing yesterday. “That would be a return to a failed strategy we know doesn’t work,” Kelling said. He advised against what he described as police officers “riding around doing nothing much of the time” waiting for 911 calls. Kelling’s plea was echoed by PERF director Chuck Wexler, who said, ” Don’t retreat into what policing used to be.”
About 100 police chiefs and other officials and experts spent the day in Washington, D.C., lamenting budget woes that are forcing layoffs and cutbacks in overtime, specialized police units, and other services in many cities. A PERF survey found that half of 608 responding agencies endured budget cuts averaging seven percent last year, and 39% expect further reductions in the next year. Wexler called on police chiefs to make the case for maintaining services even with crime rates down. Kelling, known for his advocacy of the “broken windows” theory of community policing, said that law enforcement agencies should use budget cutbacks as an opportunity to rethink how to do their jobs more efficiently. Crime & Justice News, based on an account in the Washington Post, yesterday erroneously identified one participant in the meeting, Phoenix Police Chief Jack Harris.