Coping with cut$

An LET roundtable discussing the economy's impact on equipment dollars

     CHIEF DAVE PECK: I usually allow commanders of each unit to give me a wish list, and then we prioritize those lists for different types of equipment: in-car cameras, radios, things like that ... but I've instructed my commanders to give me a very bare-bones budget to be met — contractual obligations, vehicles replacements and equipment maintenance that we already have in a maintenance and repair line. Other than that, I've instructed them not to put in for anything new.

     LET: Do you currently buy or sell items online, or would you?

     HYDE: Yes, and we're doing more online shopping to reduce travel cost and increase deals.

     KIDDLE: Our history's not that we've bought used equipment to this extent. But we'd certainly be more inclined to [buy used] with a bigger pool and a bigger number of items to obviously lower the price.

     LET: What are some other ways you plan to cut costs in day-to-day practices?

     HYDE: We're moving to more regional operations to share and reduce costs, such as regional dispatching, cell phone vendors (a larger group equals a better rate) ... we're also renting our firearms range out to other agencies. We're doing more in-house training and asking businesses to donate supplies like ammo, paper, electrical work, etc., to offset budget reductions. And we're bartering with vendors. Vendors are more willing to barter now than a month ago.

     CHIEF TONY BARTHULY: Our recent purchases have been more cameras and computers, as we're really trying to go the technology side of things — for example, keeping officers on the road by using Wi-Fi. If an officer needs to take a report he can now do it in his squad; this also increases visibility.

     Besides that we've gone more to the community for things like our K-9 unit and bicycle helmet safety programs. We're asking the community to partner with us, and those efforts have been successful. I think people do want to help when they can. You hear things especially about Internet safety or children, and people are always willing to help out.

     LET: What does the future look like to you?

     GORTNER: Certainly we're preparing for the possibility that things are going to get worse. And if they are, it could change a lot of things.

     KIDDLE: We're hoping for increased funding and support especially from the state level, where we've had a lot of our state revenue sharing cut. In the next few months we'll start preparing our 2010 budget. Within the next year we'll probably see some cuts again.

     PECK: We're cognizant of what's going on in the world, what's going on in the economy ... and when we go through our processes we're just going to be very bare bones about it.

     BARTHULY: Things are getting tighter; training money's getting tighter. If the economy stays the way it is, we'll probably be asked to do more with less again. Hopefully technology and new innovations in police work will help us get through that.

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