Management roundtable: Two Cents on 2009

Law enforcement supervisors weigh in on the challenges of 2009, technology that's changed their jobs and how policing continues to evolve

      What were the biggest challenges law enforcement faced throughout the past year?

   Cmdr. Paul Ciesielski: Budget. I know other agencies within the city have had to reduce their budget whereas here, public safety has not. We've still had to find innovative ways to make sure we're spending our money the right way. But I think that's always the No. 1 concern.

   Lt. James MacGillis: We recently transitioned to a new chief from outside the agency. It was the second time in history that we looked outside for a chief. There were some new ideas and growing pains. Our agency has since enjoyed a more positive public image, a significant reduction in crime and a general feeling of trust in the administration over the last year.

   Cmdr. Mike Nolan: 2009 budget projections did not meet the actual revenues collected. This year falls in the middle of Clark County's [Washington state] biennial budget process. We are faced with making reductions in the middle of the budget cycle. Unfortunately, only salary and benefit reductions will meet the budget reduction requirements. This means the agency will have to explore early retirement options or layoffs of our newest sworn and custody employees.

   Sgt. Faye Schouten: Budget and layoffs.

   Sgt. Jack Serier: Budget issues, perceived and real. A very difficult year to keep up department morale given potential cuts in budget.

   How have budget cuts hit law enforcement the hardest? How are agencies coping?

   PC: I think we're lucky here [at Indianapolis Metro PD] because our mayor says that public safety's job No. 1. He hasn't cut our budget like he has some of the other agencies within the city budget, [and] that has helped. [However] we have made cutbacks, especially in the area of overtime and trying to find innovative ways of saving money … yet still buy the technology and the police cars we need.

   JM: Our agency has examined and enacted new ways of doing more with less. We have less personnel dealing with increasing crime and smaller overtime and operating budgets. We are employing some new and old strategies, such as beat patrol or park-and-walk, targeting specific auto types, public education, etc. [We're] using problem-oriented policing strategies to try and reduce crime while making the public feel safer. All levels of the agency are also empowered to try innovative ways of saving money — through modified deployments, overlapping schedules, geographic policing based on crime trends.

   MN: Current budget projections, which are causing current personnel reductions, are making it necessary for agency managers to reassess our current deployment strategies. In addition, the executive staff will need to determine what level of service will be possible once all staff reductions are in place.

   FS: We tried to involve the officers as much as possible in the scheduling of the furloughs and try to keep the lines of communication open. We also went for more grants to assist with equipment needs.

   JS: Personnel [was hit hardest]. We were scheduled to hire 40 to 50 officers for our agency this year to get close to our authorized strength [but] we hired only half as many. This was also put off until the last quarter of the year to use salary not paid to new officers to meet some of the budget shortfalls.

   What was the most innovative or most exciting product introduced in your career? Or recently?

   JM: When I first started, carbon paper was just being replaced by PCs in the station. (Seriously.) Nowadays, we use fingerprint machines that can identify a subject in 30 seconds on the street. We also have a camera that can identify stolen license plates and people's faces that are wanted. Almost all squads have PCs in them, some with cameras, some with long rifles with optics, body armor that is rifle capable, etc. It amazes me that as the dangers have increased, so has the technology to combat those dangers. It's comforting to see that administrators recognize the dangers at the street level and are equipping officers accordingly.

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