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Impact of the Economic Downturn on American Police Agencies

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2011
This study examined the impact of America's economic downturn on the provision and deployment of resources needed for delivering police services.
Over the last 2 years, many law enforcement agencies have experienced significant effects from budget cuts. The data presented in this report suggest that changes may occur on several fronts. First, there may be greater reliance on "force-multiplier" technologies such as closed-circuit television, automated emergency dispatch systems, video teleconferencing equipment, and the use of social media. The use of such technologies such as these has the ability to provide law enforcement agencies with a means of maximizing available information while alleviating the need for an immediate response. Another fundamental alteration has occurred in the delivery of police services is the increased use of non-sworn employees and volunteers. Such approaches can provide sworn staff with more time to devote to pressing and time-sensitive issues that can only be effectively managed by a law enforcement officer. Some agencies have been forced to make drastic changes in their methods for handling non-emergency situations and administrative duties. Many police agencies are no longer able to dispatch an officer to every call for service. Instead, police managers are forced to focus on which situations pose the greatest threat to public safety. A more radical change due to the economic downturn is the increase in the number of agencies that are combining efforts and resources through consolidation, shared services, and regionalization. Institutionalization of the community policing philosophy is vital to the ability of law enforcement agencies. Agencies must systematically use partnerships and problem solving techniques that proactively address the problems that their communities are facing. The development and enhancement of police and community resources coordinated for the benefit of public safety are critical in ensuring community safety. 10 figures, 5 tables, and 65 references