The budget burden

It’s the 200-pound brute cohabitating every police management office across the states: the budget gorilla. This year’s roundtable proves that some curse words have more than four letters, and the big one of these last years, and according to the...

Yaniero: persist as the greatest obstacle to improved police services. The demands of the electorate will force legislative bodies to continue to cut governmental budgets. Police services will be challenged to improve services in this anti-tax environment. Another obstacle facing our police department and many others is the “CSI effect.” Citizens and jurors expect highly technical forensic services in our investigation of crimes. In many cases, these services are not readily available or the technology is cumbersome and expensive. The need to improve forensic services, will little or no funding, will continue to be a challenge to police agencies in the next ten years. In addition, the issues that surround recruitment and retention of police officers and support staff will continue to be a challenge. It is imperative to recruit, select, and retain the type of personnel who will bring a strong commitment and job talent to the department and the community. In recent years, many areas of our country have experienced a reduction in the availability of qualified job applicants. As a new generation of police officer enters the profession, police administrators will be required to adjust in competing for this most important resource. Technology will be the key, as this generation has been raised in a technology-rich environment. These individuals will demand a police agency that keeps up with current technology or they will seek employment with an agency that does. I believe that officers will rarely remain with their initial department, and transition to agencies that best meet their philosophic and technical needs.

Do you see better or worse economic times ahead?

Kiederlen: It’s tough. Again, we have increasing demands. I think we’re going to see, as is the usual cycle, as the economy continues to be bad, crime will continue to go up. It’s just the way things go. And when we’re all in tough economic times, and our PD has a higher demand for service, service brings on additional cost, and there’s no additional monies, and there’s really no additional monies, it’s interesting trying to figure out how you’re going to do it.

Twombly: I really think that we’re facing this for a few more years out, unfortunately. The other thing is just continuing to try to—I don’t want to use the word survive—but maintain the level of service in these upcoming budget years. I guess I’ve always tried to look at things with a glass half full type of guy. I don’t see this economic mess getting cleared up before the next presidential election—two more years minimum.

Yaniero: I expect that we shall continue to experience economic challenges for the next five years. From a police point of view, an increase of property crimes will continue as a result of the challenging economy. In addition, in regard to budgets, there will be reductions in federal, state and local law enforcement dollars.

How have budget cuts hit your agency the hardest?

Kiederlen: We had to cut most of our auxiliary assistance programs; we had to cut back in some training, mostly because of travel expense, we just had a general budget decrease overall of about 10 percent.

Twombly: All of our staff had to take a 3-percent pay cut. And then try to do more with less and then on top of that, the stressors of those kinds of incidents. So it’s not been an easy year for us by any means.

Our budgets have been reduced and it’s an issue of trying to prevent layoffs of staff while maintaining the level of service that we’ve provided. We’ve had to look at trying to not radically as much as reorganize, but try to make ourselves more efficient is I think one of the biggest challenges.

About 15 years ago, we were fortunate enough because we had fairly high turnover, we were always running short because someone would always retire or resign. And by the time you get someone hired and trained up, it could be upwards of nine months to a year before you got that position filled. So the only other way to fill a position is obviously on overtime and that was really creating a problem because we were burning our people out, quite frankly. So we were able to institute a pre-hiring group where we were able to over hire, so we always had people (who) could step in. And that worked actually quite well. With this budget year, we’ve potentially lost eight positions, but we were able to absorb that without laying people off because essentially, we just eliminated that group of pre-hires. Does that make sense? So luckily, no, it doesn’t look like we’re going to have any physical layoffs. But by the same token, we’ve lost that ability to fill positions more quickly, which at this moment isn’t a problem but if we all the sudden come into—this will be several years down the road—a large group of people retiring or leaving, that could be a problem facing us.

Yaniero: The City of Jacksonville is the home of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, the largest military base on the East Coast. The City has not encountered many of the economic challenges faced in other communities. However, due to the realignment and closures of other military bases, Camp Lejeune has experienced significant growth, with over 20,000 additional Marines, civilian workers and family members in the past five years. Police calls for service have increase 35% in the past five years. In addition, the state of North Carolina has endured significant budget reductions, which adversely affect local budgets. In order to address these budget reductions in a high growth environment, the police department staff has been working on a variety of call reduction strategies. We believe that these challenges allow the staff to focus on developing processes that improve the efficiency of delivering police services. These strategies include the development of an on-line reporting process, the adoption of a comprehensive alarm ordinance, the prioritization and delayed response for calls for service, and the concentration on problem solving at high call locations.

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