With many police department budgets shrinking, Michigan State University is creating a program to inform the criminal justice field on the costs, benefits and other implications of police consolidation and shared services. The university’s School of Criminal Justice is starting the effort with funds from the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Community Policing Services (COPS). The university says the move “comes at a time when many communities face continued resource constraints, challenging their ability to provide public safety services. Further complicating matters, public officials have limited knowledge about alternatives for the delivery of public safety services.” The U.S. has about 18,000 state and local law enforcement agencies. There are fewer than 100 such agencies in Canada, England and Japan. In the U.S., with budget constraints increasing in many places, some agencies have turned to non-sworn staffers; nearly one in three police employees are now civilians, said Michigan State Prof. Jeremy Wilson, who will direct the program.