City of Detroit Analysis of Police Officer Force Sizes

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Policy Question: How many police officers are needed in the city of Detroit?

Policy Statement: The city of Detroit should maintain the number of police officers which keeps the City's perspective in line with crime control and community service objectives.

Data and Information Considered:

This police officer force strength policy was developed after a review of scientific research pertaining to the effects of officers on crime, analyses of crime trends in Detroit, and comparison of the relative amount of crime in Detroit to similar cities. A comparison of the relative number of officers in Detroit to other Midwestern cities was also conducted along with an analysis of historical trends in officer force strength. An assessment of current and future financial and budgetary trends was also included.

Background and Relevant Facts:

Police Force Impacts on Crime

Among the primary reasons for a police force in any city is the need for service to the community through crime control and the maintenance of civil order. As a result, this analysis of police force strength in Detroit began by asking the question, "To what extent does change in the number of police officers impact crime?" A review of scientific literature on this topic indicated that funding from the US Department of Justice, Community Oriented Policing Services indicates that an increase in funding does impact crime, i.e., there is a reduction, however, the analysis shows only the reduction trends in cities that received a grant, so the analysis does not accurately give an overall estimate on the reduction of crime in the United States as a whole, and therefore, an increase in police size does not does have a significant impact on crime reduction in mid-western cities (Scheider, Thurman, & Zhao, 2002). For example, in cities with a population of over 10,000 only showed a reduction of 34% in violent crime and a 24% reduction in property crime rates over a five year period - 1994 to 1999, the lowest statistics during the last 20 years.

These research studies suggest that relatively small adjustments to police force size are unlikely to result in substantial crime increases or decreases.

Detroit Crime versus Similar Cities

When the relative amount or rate of crime in Detroit was compared with that of similar cities, it was discovered that Detroit was similar in violent and property crime rates. For example, the violent crime rate in Detroit compared to Cleveland, Indianapolis, and Pittsburgh was approximately 1 - 2% higher and the property crime rate in Detroit compared to the same cities was also approximately 2 - 2 ½% higher. Overall, during the period of 1989 - 2009 Detroit has consistently been higher in Part I crimes as reported by the UCR.

When crime rates during recent years are compared with rates from prior years, Detroit has seen a reduction in violent crimes; however, the data suggest that the number of officers per 10,000 population in Detroit may need to be higher than in most comparison cities.

Analysis of Historical Crime Trends

To provide some historical context into the current rates of crime in Detroit, an analysis of violent and property crime trends was also conducted. Research has been compiled and completed on the crime trend in Detroit over a period of 20 years (see chart), and Detroit compared to other similar cities - Cleveland, Indianapolis, and Pittsburgh - have similar statistics based on the Uniform Crime Report Statistics website, i.e., violent and property crimes; however, overall, Detroit was almost double in violent crimes, and was almost double for property crimes as well. But the FBI at one time refused to include its crime statistics because it was deemed unreliable (Siegel, 2002) so to say the data for Detroit is accurate remains a question. For example, the UCR reports Detroit for 2009 has 2,930 officers but the budget that is reported online - for transparency purposes - reported an actual amount of 3,290 officers (www.detroitmi.gov).

Detroit's crime trend has dropped but the data indicates that crime should not be the sole determining factor in police force strength. Moreover, recent crime declines suggest that the hiring of additional officer may not be required from a crime control perspective and that consideration should be given to maintaining or reducing the current number of police officers in Detroit.

Detroit Officer Rates versus Similar Cities

The current number of police officer per citizen in the city of Detroit is almost 1% higher than the rate in most comparison cities; the ratio in Detroit is also higher than compared to similar cities at approximately .32%. - about one-tenth more than the other cities. Detroit has seen a reduction in police force size as well; the Bureau of Justice department website provides statistics on number of officers in cities every four years, the last data collected was in 2004 and it said Detroit has seen a -15% drop from the year 2000 (US Dept. of Justice, 2004).

Detroit overall has more officers than similar cities and though Detroit went through a substantial reduction in police force size, this reduction has not had a significant impact on crime rates.

Fiscal and Budgetary Circumstances in Detroit

The final area of research pertaining to this analysis of Detroit officer force strength policy pertains to the financial and budgetary situation.

Detroit is currently going through a budget crisis and with the economic downturn, the City of Detroit is going through a foreclosure crisis as well; with this comes taxes not being paid by the citizens. Detroit therefore, has had to cut city services including police officers as well. In fiscal year (2006-2007) the city budgeted 3,449 but the recommended amount was 3,252 showing a decrease of 197 uniform positions (www.detroitmi.gov). In fiscal year (2007-2008) there was actually an increase of officers - by 103 positions; in fiscal year (2008-2009) there were 3,794 positions, however, this includes civilian positions - the city started with this fiscal year by combining uniform and civilian totals (www.detroitmi.gov), and for fiscal year (2009-2010) there was a drop from the previous year by 106 positions - both uniform and civilian positions (www.detroitmi.gov). The City of Detroit has relied on grant positions as well; this helped to fund police officer positions so as not to further constrain the budget.

With fluctuations in the budget, and its reliance on grants to fund police positions, it has had a negative affect on police force size, and therefore, it is recommended that the police force size should not increase because of the budget instability. In addition, the statistics show that a decrease or increase in police size has no impact on the reduction of crime.

Expected Future Trends:

The property crimes will remain stable as well as aggravated assaults, based on crime trend statistics.

Agency Plan: Statement of Purpose, Goals and Budget Summary. (2006-2007). http://www.detroitmi.gov/Portals/0/docs/budgetdept/2006-07_Budget/Agencies/EB06-07%20Police%20REVISION.pdf

Gives out the City of Detroit budget information.

Ibid. (2007-2008). http://www.ci.detroit.mi.us/Portals/0/docs/budgetdept/2007-08_Budget/Agencies/EB _%2837%29%20POLICE_07-08.pdf

Ibid.

Ibid. (2008-2009). http://www.ci.detroit.mi.us/Portals/0/docs/budgetdept/2008-09_Redbook/08-09%20Complete%20Positions/08_09%20Personal%20Services.pdf

Ibid.

Ibid. (2009-2010). http://www.detroitmi.gov/Portals/0/docs/budgetdept/2009-10_Redbook/Complete_List_of_Budgeted_Positions_by_Depts/2009-2010%20Redbook%20Personal%20Services.pdf

Ibid.

City of Detroit Departmental Budget Information Police Ibid. (2008-2009). http://www.detroitmi.gov/Portals/0/docs/budgetdept/2009-10_Budget/ Executive %20Budget%20Summary_10/EBS_Departments/EBS%2009-10%20Police.pdf.

Gives out the City of Detroit budget information.

Scheider, M., Thurman, Q. & Zhao, J. (2002). Funding community policing to reduce crime: Have cops grants made a difference? Criminology & Public Policy, 2(1), 7-32. 

Scheider, Thurman, and Zhao's research analyzes whether the COPS grant has significantly reduced violent crimes and property crimes in cities that have received the grant. Their analysis does show a drop in violent crimes and property crimes per 100,000 population but varies by city size.

Siegel, Fred. (2002). The death and life of America's cities. Public Interest, 3-22. 

This describes the economic downturn of major urban cities and the impact of crime; it discusses the history of crime in Detroit since the days of Coleman Young.

U.S Department of Justice Website, <http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/csllea04.pdf page 4>.

This website gives statistics on sworn police officers every four years.

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