Officer-per-thousand formulas and other myths

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As a former deputy sheriff/coroner and police officer in California, I am interested in public safety. The latest Lincoln City Council action is to lay off four police officers. Lincoln citizens have made many comments regarding their fear of increased crimes in our city. Often quoted by city officials is an “Officer per Thousand (of population)” formula to show that the city of Lincoln does not have a sufficient number of police officers to police the number of citizens. We have heard that “people will die” unless our taxes are raised. A 2003 study by a group of former police administrators, “Officer-Per-Thousand Formulas and Other Policing Myths,” “worked with many communities across the United States, some of the smallest and largest, the most dangerous and safest.” The study stated, “We have yet to find a (police) department that thinks it could do with fewer personnel.” The study concludes that having a low crime rate is not about the number of police officers. It is about policing efficiently and focusing on the mission of law enforcement. It is about citizen involvement. When former Police Chief Brian Vizzusi was interviewed by the Citizens Advisory Financial Task Force on April 30, 2009, he stated that police responded to 32,600 calls the previous 12 months. Since the population has changed very little, today’s number of calls is probably similar. The city is divided into four beats with one officer assigned to each beat. Also, a supervisor is on duty for “back-up.” There is an average of one call for assistance for each of four on-duty patrol officers per hour. This does not include the supervisors and/or detectives also on duty who could answer calls in an emergency. An average of one call per hour for each patrolman allows ample time for patrolling our city. Do we need officers parked behind shopping centers, in church parking lots, on Highway 65 and at the police building? The best crime prevention is for them to be patrolling our streets. Proper policing is not about the number of police personnel. Proper policing is about efficient and effective use and supervision of existing personnel. C.M. Schmidt, Lincoln