Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tulsa Cuts Police Force: Sluggish Economy to Blame

The Wall Street Journal took a detailed look at how a sluggish economy is affecting the Tulsa police department. Tulsa is just an example of what many communities across the country. A summary of the the article is below.

Since January, Tulsa has laid off 89 police officers, 11% of its force. According to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), the lay-offs have pushed the city to the forefront of a national movement, spurred by hard times, to revamp long-held policing strategies.

In the past four decades, the city's population has jumped 17%—and the police department budget has soared to $87 million from about $4 million, according to a city council report. The force expanded from 507 sworn officers in 1969 to a high of 829 two years ago, before falling to 702 today.

With fewer officers the police have curtailed community outreach, investigations, undercover work, surveillance, even traffic enforcement, and poured many remaining resources into bread-and-butter street patrols. The WSJ further reported that Tulsa's domestic-violence unit lost two officers, leaving four to handle about 5,000 cases a year. The undercover units that used to focus on armed gangs in public housing projects have disbanded. Veteran narcotics detectives are back in cruisers, answering 911 calls.

Chief Chuck Jordan is trying to minimize the impact of such cuts by policing more efficiently. He is shuffling shifts according to an analysis of crime patterns. According to the WSJ, by summer, he plans to assign all patrol officers dedicated beats—and build in time for them to get to know local residents—instead of deploying them across a 20-square-mile sector.

The true test in Tulsa will likely come this summer. The city has closed several swimming pools and recreation centers to save money. Strapped nonprofit groups have cut sports and mentoring programs. Some residents fear that will leave restless teens with little to do but make trouble. Councilor Jack Henderson told the WSJ,
"In my mind, that's a recipe for disaster.

To read more: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704508904575192351090107196.html

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