Volunteer civilians are increasingly filling police roles and nearly 12,000 police officers and sheriff’s deputies will be laid off by the end of the year as local law enforcement agencies deal with budget cuts, according to a new report from DOJ’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program. The study also shows the first-ever national decrease in law enforcement positions in the 25 years they’ve been collecting data.
“Across the country, mayors, sheriffs, and chiefs have been asked - not only to do more with less - but also to make painful budgetary cuts,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a speech on Monday. “According to a new economic outlook report that our COPS office released this week - we expect that, by the end of this year, nearly 12,000 police officers and sheriff’s deputies will have been laid off.”
According to the study:
- By the end of the year, it’s expected that nearly 12,000 police officers and sheriff’s deputies will have been laid off.
- Approximately 30,000 law enforcement jobs are unfilled.
- An estimated 28,000 officers and deputies have faced week-long furloughs in 2010.
- An estimated 53 percent of counties are working with fewer staff today than just one year ago.
- 2011 could produce the first national decline in law enforcement officer positions in at least the last 25 years.
Some agencies, the report finds “have stopped responding to all motor vehicle thefts, burglar alarms, and non-injury motor vehicle accidents.” Overall, agencies have “reported decreases in investigations of property crimes, fugitive tracking, a variety of white collar crimes, and even low-level narcotics cases.”
On the volunteer front, 43 percent of respondents to the survey “reported that they increased the use of volunteers as a means to compensate for budget reductions.” From the report, issued by the COPS program Republicans in the House voted to eliminate:
Another fundamental alteration that has been seen in delivery of police services as a result of the changing economy is the increased application of non-sworn individuals — both as employees and as volunteers . More and more police agencies have begun to shift some of the responsibilities that have traditionally been performed by sworn staff to civilian personnel as a means to mitigate payroll costs and maintain staffing levels. Further, some agencies have even engaged citizen volunteers to help alleviate the strain on police work loads. Such approaches can provide sworn staff with more time to focus on pressing and time-sensitive issues that can only be successfully managed by a law enforcement officer.
In a blog post, Holder dinged Congress for not supporting the president’s jobs bill:
Fortunately, President Obama’s proposed American Jobs Act would provide significant help in addressing this crisis. The bill includes $4 billion in funding for law enforcement hiring through the COPS office. These funds would not only help to safeguard our national security and bolster public safety - they would strengthen our economy by creating or saving essential jobs for first responders.
Yet the Senate has responded to these urgent needs with a proposal for only $200 million in support for such initiatives - and the House of Representatives has zeroed out this allocation altogether.
“This gap is not only drastic - it’s dangerous,” Holder wrote in the blog post. “In taking action to combat the conditions that have devastated law enforcement agencies nationwide, we simply can’t afford to wait.”