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Guidelines for Starting and Operating a New Police Department

NCJ Number
Deborah Spence; Barbara Webster; Edward Connors
Date Published
August 2006
64 pages

This guide is designed to help a community's public officials and citizens decide whether to start their own police department; and if they decide to do so, how to do it efficiently and effectively.


The guide can be helpful to rural, suburban, and urban communities of all sizes. The first chapter examines the arguments for and against starting a new police department. It leads decisionmakers to examine whether there are good reasons for starting a police department and whether there might be other options for achieving the goals that have been set. The second chapter assumes that there is sufficiently strong interest in establishing a police department to conduct a closer examination of the issues involved, although there may not be communitywide support for a new police department. Some of the issues addressed are the kind of information needed to make an informed decision, who should collect and analyze the information, and why and how to involve citizens in the process. The third chapter assumes that the community has completed its assessments and has decided they want to start a new department. Questions that should be asked at this stage include what types of services the department should provide, whether the community can afford to have full police services 7 days a week and 24 hours a day, how to handle complex investigations and special functions, and whether the community is ready to hire a police chief. Chapter 4 pertains to the transition period between hiring the police chief and starting patrol operations. It focuses on the policies and procedures the chief must develop before patrol service can begin. The fifth chapter highlights the key action steps discussed in the guide and identifies the obstacles likely to be encountered based on the experiences of other jurisdictions. 38 references and resources