How Many Police Do We Need?
Excerpt from Justin's July Newsletter
In April, the Alexandria Police Department closed the books on 2015. The Department announced that in 2015, total Part 1 Crime (the most serious offenses) decreased by 2.4%. Overall, the City's Part 1 crime is at rates last seen during the 1960s. While there were increases in aggravated assaults, burglaries and larcenies decreased.
While Alexandria is certainly a city not immune to serious crime, the report showed that our community generally is a safe one. While the financial challenges of the past decade have battered nearly every service in City government, the City Councils have ensured that public safety funding is prioritized.
Today, the Alexandria Police Department has an authorized sworn force of 304 officers. Over a decade ago, in the FY 2006 budget, the authorized sworn strength was 316.
Look around the region, our neighbors vary in their staffing. Arlington County today has 360 sworn officers with a population of 216,700. Fairfax County has 1,359 sworn officers with a population of 1,116,246. Prince William County has 660 sworn officers with a population of 428,329.
With that rudimentary analysis, Alexandria at 153,511 residents has the highest sworn staffing ratio of our neighbors (per population).
How many is the right number? How many police officers do we we need to keep our community safe?
To try to arrive at that number, the City contracted with the International Association of the Chiefs of Police, which happens to be located here in Alexandria. The result of this engagement was a comprehensive study on Alexandria Police Department staffing in the patrol and investigations areas.
Rather than simply looking at the City's population and geography and making comparisons to neighboring jurisdictions, the study instead examined a year's worth of data from the Police Department's Computer Aided Dispatch system. They examined how officers use their time and how that is different for the varied types of situations police officers address in our City.
This study made many significant recommendations, including:
Increases in staffing within Patrol
Increase community policing
Change "Back-Up" unit response
Re-evaluate specialized assignments
While these changes would likely be costly, the report also examines ways that these costs can be offset by reallocating resources within the Department.
With the report now received, our Department will be evaluating each recommendation to determine how and if they will be implemented. This discussion will continue as a component of our upcoming budget process.
With the upcoming leadership change in the department, it will be important to organize and staff our police to be successful in keeping the residents and visitors of Alexandria safe.