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Strategic Cutback Management: Law Enforcement Leadership for Lean Times

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 2011
36 pages
Drawing on lessons learned from previous economic declines in the United States, this paper suggests approaches law enforcement agencies can use in addressing the current financial crisis.
The author advises that leadership is the key to effective cutback management. An organization's leaders can cultivate a shared sense of the importance of pursuing priorities and essential tasks of the organization. Another lesson learned from past economic crises is to avoid across-the-board cuts. Such cuts without regard to agency priorities and measured consequences can cause disproportionate harm to the agency's mission. Another lesson from the past is to use economic lean times to improve management performance and agency productivity. In periods of financial crises, law enforcement agencies must reflect upon which tasks performed by the agency have the most impact on public safety and which have the least impact. This process enlightens managers about the allocation of limited resources to achieve the greatest results. Other advice drawn from past financial crises is to "think long term." Research has shown that organizations which have been most effective in managing fiscal crises were committed to a strategic plan with a multi-year time frame. Other advice in this paper is to "not just cut costs, look for revenue opportunities." Research on past recessions indicates that increasing a tax or fee provides relief faster than cutting expenditures. Although police agencies do not have the authority to levy taxes, they may be able to charge user fees for some services. Another proven approach to cutback management is to explore innovations, such as privatizing certain city services and selling public-facility naming rights. Other advice is to seek input from outside financial experts and to use targeted layoffs rather than hiring freezes. 36 notes and appended key questions for effective cutback management

Date Published: July 1, 2011