Police services—ideal level of local spending?     

Trends in spending. Trends in local budgets.

Local government spending on police services throughout the United States has increased, and markedly, over the last generation. On a per capita basis, local police spending went from $75 (inflation adjusted) per person in 1960. Then to $295 per person by 2008. (Edwards, D. & Bienvenu, B., 2011)

This growth on the order of 300% outpaced other local government services.  To some extent crowded out municipal educational, infrastructure, and human services projects. (Edwards, D. & Bienvenu, B., 2011)

As far as “bang for the buck” relationships between police spending and crime, there have been literally dozens of studies.  Those studies have tried to establish a mathematical relationship between policing and crime outcomes.

More Spending on Police Services

The majority agree that more spending on police either has no effect on crime or actually correlates with higher crime.  The cities that spend the most on police services have the highest crime. (Edwards, D. & Bienvenu, B., 2011)

Moreover, spending per capita, when adjusted for BOTH crime rates cost of living, on policing, varies from $78 to $853 per capita in cities across the United States.

The suggestion that Edwards and Bienvenu makes, is to shift municipal spending from consumables.  In terms of police services to capital.  Transportation, greenspace, and economic development will pay for it by comparing your city to cities around it and lowering municipal policing spending closer to $78 and away from $853 per capita on police services.

Operations—civilians vs. commissioned officers?

  • Productivity, scale, patrolling
  • Civilians vs. cops
  • Fiscal stress

One Municipal response to a recessionary economy and rising crime was to allocate more police functions to civilian (non-uniformed) employees. Much of police spending is dilutive. Meaning that the support apparatus takes up more of the budget than feet on the street.

The feet on the street are largely responding to crime as opposed to preventing it. Grosskopf, S., Hayes, K., & Hirschberg, J. ,1995 and Edwards, D. & Beinvenu, B, 2011)

Surprisingly, given that the output of a police department is not marketable and is thus immune from being measured in the usual economic (profitability) terms.  Grosskopf, Hayes, and Hirschberg found that the police bureaucracy responded with remarkable efficiency in allocation of uniformed and civilian employees to fiscal stress during times of recession and increasing crime.

Politics and Politicians

  • What is the ideal local government structure for crime fighting?
  •  Re-Structuring
  • Consolidation—and the use of BIDs, which seems highly profitable

The structure of governments and this structure’s influence on the costs of public safety is a topic of vociferous debate.  A few traits seem to emerge and others are hotly debated.

It seems clear that county governments with a charter (a mini-constitution) and chief executives (modern, business-like structures) spent more money per capita than old style counties with simple commissions and no CEO. (Benton, 2002)

Of course, the question is whether the provision of more public goods by these reformed, and more business-like, structures of government is good or bad is left unanswered.  In fact, even the question of whether fragmented or consolidated government structures are more efficient is unanswered.

Governmental Units Create

Some scholars believe that more governmental units create competition between the units and are thus more efficient (Boyne, 1992), and there seems to be some local evidence for this proposition.  The consolidation and merger of the Indianapolis Police and the Marion County Sheriff seemed to reduce efficiency, not increase it.

The same consolidation of law enforcement seems to have increased costs and reduced efficiency in Louisville, KY. (Duncan, 2014 and Stanich, 2013)  In short, the traditional wisdom that more law enforcement bureaucracies with overlapping jurisdictions competing with one another actually lowers costs seems not to hold true. (Hendrick, 2011)

The blanket assertion that consolidation lowers costs and creates efficiency also seems wrong.  As the reaction to fiscal stress in local government universally seems to be to decentralize. (Jimenez, 2009)

More than two decades ago, Professor Dolan argued that the solution is that centralized governments are simply more efficient at providing the same amount of service. (Dolan, 1990) The majority of studies indicate that more fragmentation means lower costs for the same level of services. (Boyne, 1992)

It appears that even Dolan would concede that it is single purpose fragmentation (school districts, special taxing districts) that drive up costs of government. Also, that the results of these single purpose units of government may well justify the increased costs. The increased costs actually represent an increased production of a public good.

Justifying Expenses

A good example of these single purpose governmental units that Dolan believes drive up costs but which actually provide a useful public good that justifies the expense are BIDs.

Business Improvement Districts are voluntary taxes that a neighborhood votes to impose on itself.  Usually in the form of a property tax increase. This has been shown to reduce crime by increasing private patrols, security lighting, and other measures like cameras.  Even beautification to parks will improve by up to 10percent.  More efficiently per crime averted than police spending.  (Brooks, 2008)

Certainly, locally, Indianapolis metro areas seem willing to tax themselves to increase security. (Shambaugh, 2106) The number of Indianapolis police officers is below the national average per 1000 resident.  Indianapolis and cities nearby view this ratio as a problem that needs to be addressed. (Duncan, 2104)  The benefits from this type of increased security would seem to be established by the above research.

Moving the force up to size

Nonetheless, despite the success of BIDs (which do correlate government spending with crime reduction) and the unanimous desire of Indianapolis officials to move the police force up to a size that comports with other comparable cities, there is a countervailing bloc of research that shows no relationship between crime rate and police force size. (Chamlin 2008)

There is research showing that more money spent on public safety projects, as opposed to more police, does in fact decrease crime. (Prall, 2014)  Certainly the characteristics of a community, including its capital expenditures and overall wealth suggest outputs of public safety. (Schwab, 1991)

The effect of greater spending on police or public safety really depends on the traits of the community in which the money is spent. (Schwab, 1987)  The only certainty would appear to be that extremely low crime rate areas have a spillover effect on surrounding areas, lowering their crime rates as well. (Kelejian, 1992)

In the end, one school notes that the cities that spend the most on policing also have the highest crime. It also seems unanimous that cities should look at similar cities and spend a similar amount on capital expenditures.

Needing to including crime prevention.  Instead of creating budgets from whole cloth, and that crime itself does respond to spending in that social conditions.  Many of which are addressed by BIDs, which due include security.  These are certainly influenced by municipal spending. (Edwards, 2011)

Courts—do civil forfeiture laws help with crime reduction?

  • Minimum sentencing
  • Civil forfeiture

Civil forfeiture laws attempt to get the “agents” with those who actually interact with the public, like police officers.  Getting them on the same page as the policymakers like politicians and civil servants.

The idea was to offer financial incentives to public service employees similar to what the private sector can offer as far as money bonuses.  The result has been that as police confiscate drug related assets, the local governments simply allocate less funding to police agencies. (Baicker, 2007)

Thus, the incentive monies are actually being co-opted by the local governments themselves.  Public sector financial incentives are generally thus discredited in all areas and not just public safety.

Banning “the Box” Do these bans actually work to help reduce crime or help with reintegrating citizens?

Jurisdictions across the United States have, recently, as in within the last two decades, begun prohibiting employers from asking job applicants about any criminal history until at least one interview has occurred.  At which time, an ex-offender could ostensibly demonstrate his or her job readiness.

This prohibition on asking about any criminal history is called “banning the box.”  This means removing the box where criminal convictions would be checked off from all employment applications.

Research has considered over 30 “Ban the Box” policies at different levels of government, effective from 2004 to January of 2014. The research shows unanimously that eliminating this criminal conviction inquiry harms unskilled African American and Hispanic men.  Surveyed in roughly three dozen counties, states and municipalities that have banned the box asking about criminal history. (Doleac, J. & Hansen, B., 2016)

Instituting a ban

The federal government has also instituted such a ban. Indianapolis (consolidated Marion County) also prohibits inquiry into criminal history until after the first interview and is the only city in Indiana to do so.

Minority applicants for jobs who actually do have a conviction on their records are assisted by these laws.  Minorities, overall, seem to be harmed as more likely to be excluded from interviews. Whites with a conviction were actually helped the most statistically. (Agan, A. and Starr, S. 2016)

It has also been recently discovered that residents of high crime areas who are more likely to have a conviction in general, benefit from “banning the box.”  While women, who are less likely to have convictions, are harmed. (Shoag, D. and Vauger, S. 2016)

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that these findings on banning of the box jibe with earlier studies showing that statistical discrimination actually is shown to increase against minorities.  These minorities who are applying for jobs, as employers have less precise information about employees.

Even in the face of testing, that is unfavorable to minority groups as a whole.  Although minority candidates did worse on (some forms) of testing as a whole.  The percentage of minority candidates hired did not change when the testing that ostensibly hurt minorities was used. While the quality of employees chosen were more productive with the use of “discriminatory” testing.

In Ending about Police Services

In short, both discrimination against minority applicants were worse, and the quality of the hired workforce was worse when no testing of any kind was used.  This held true even when a given test may have seen minorities do statistically worse.

No information apparently harms minority job applicants worse than potentially harmful information. (Author, D.H. and Scarborough, D., 2008) Some information is better for minorities than no information.  This often studied result, apparently holds true even for the “convictions box” on job applications.

Trends in Public Safety Spending and Crime

Local and Regional Trends

The first local trend is demonstrated with an amendment to state law. Public Safety Spending remains a popular political choice.

Indiana State Law has recently been amended to allow Indiana counties to pass local income taxes and these taxes may be used for public safety, economic development, or even property tax relief (Shambaugh, 2016).

Boone county has already begun the process of attempting to take advantage of this new law.  Which allows the income tax to pass only if elected bodies representing half of the county’s population approve the tax.

Agreeable taxing

It is no coincidence that the Boone County Sheriff’s office as well as the Zionsville Police Department are the first groups actively to pursue passing the tax available under this new law.

Both agencies perceive under-staffing and neither is meeting resistance politically to passage of this tax due to the perceived under-staffing. See Figure (1) and (2).

Using data from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics for year 2014 on police and sheriff patrol earnings. Both the state as a whole and a regional sample of the combined Indianapolis, Carmel area.  They  were below the national average hourly and annual wage for police and sheriff patrol officers.

Figure 1


Figure 2

This perceived understaffing is likely a real problem.  In nearby Indianapolis, for example, consolidated Marion County needs 200 to 300 officers simply to move from 1.7 officers per 1000 residents up to the national average of 2.5 officers per 1000 residents (Duncan, 2014).

Moreover, this is a comparatively relative small number of officers that Indianapolis has working at any given time.  Only approximately 40% are available to answer a 911 call.

There is a high cost and delays associated with officer training.  Moving civilians into internal roles and officers back onto the street has been discussed.  This would be a cheaper but possible alternative to training the full 300 officers needed to bring Indianapolis up to national average levels of officer staffing (Duncan, 2014).

With FBI Employee Data, Figure (3) provides the trend for both Indianapolis total police service employment and specific officer employment.

Figure 3

*Blue = Police Services Officer Employment
*Black = Total Police Services Employment.

From the figure, beginning 2005 with stable officer employment a sharp decrease in total employment was due to reductions in the civilian workforce.

Figure (4) further emphasizes the relationship change between officers and civilians employed on the Indianapolis force.


Figure 4

*Red = Civilian Employment
*Blue = Officer Employment

In Figure (5) a similar relationship is seen at the state level.

Figure 5


*Red = Civilian Employment
*Blue = Officer Employment

 An efficient alternative

As will be discussed later, nationally, utilization of civilianization has been shown to be an efficient alternative to reliance.  Solely on the training of uniformed officers for the majority of positions within a department (Grosskopf, 1995).

National Trends in Public Safety Spending and Crime

Nearby Chicago would seem to agree that under-staffing remains a big problem.  It is with difficulty in replacing retiring officers and the lag time it takes to train uniformed recruits.

Chicago has committed to spend the necessary money to add almost 1000 police officers to their force.  This is in direct response to the highest violence levels since crime rates began to drop some 20 years ago (McLaughlin, 2016).

But, as with Indianapolis, the lag time in training new officers means that these jobs will be added over a two-year period. Local government spending has increased significantly as well.

Local government spending on police services throughout the United States has increased, and markedly, over the last 25 years.  On a per capita basis, national average local police spending went from $75 (inflation adjusted) per person in 1960 to $295 per person by 2008 (Edwards & Bienvenu, 2011).

This growth in the national average spending, which is on the order of 300%, outpaced other local government services and has to some extent crowded out municipal educational, infrastructure, and human services projects. (Edwards & Bienvenu, 2011)

A look at the state level in Figure (6) shows over a decade trend in state police expenditures below national average state police expenditures.

Figure 6

*Blue = Indiana State Police Expenditures
*Red = National State Police Expenditures

Further, Figure (7) shows a relatively stable share of the state budget maintained by police expenditures. Ranging from .6% to 1.1% of the total state budget from 1992-2013.

Figure 7

But do these increased spending levels, and often corresponding staffing levels, actually lead to reduced crime? Crime has decreased markedly as spending has increased over the last 40 years (DeAngelo, 2014).  As far as “bang for the buck” relationships between police spending and crime rates, simply put, the evidence is conflicting. There have been literally dozens of studies, over two dozen of which are cited by Edwards and Bienvenu as mentioned above, that have tried to establish any relationship between policing frequency, spending, and numbers of officers with crime rates, and the majority of studies actually correlate rawer spending on public safety with higher crime or with no effect on crime rates whatsoever (Edwards & Bienvenu, 2011).  Other studies agree that there is no short term correlation between larger police force size and any reduction in crime rate measurements (Chamlin & Sanders, 2008).  But, an important caveat is that although short term size increases in the police force do not affect crime rates, long term increases in crime do lead to greater police force size. Another caveat is that countervailing evidence does exist.  For example, one study notes that more police or public safety projects, as opposed to raw numbers of police lead to lower crime rates overall (Prall, 2014). Further, extremely low crime rate areas have a spillover effect on surrounding areas, lowering their crime rates as well (Kelejian, 1992). But there is some evidence of impacts on crime with spending decisions.

For the state of Indiana Figure (8) and (9) provide trends on total employment and violent crimes involving state police employees.  Referring back to Figure (5), the slight and steady drop in employment is again due to a reduction in the civilians sector with stable officer employment.

Figure 8

*Black = Total of State Employees

*Blue = State Officer Employees

Figure 9

Comparing the trends there is a lag spike of employment with the crime spike of 2003, followed by a reduction in civilian employment while maintaining officer employment.

The evidence is, however, in agreement on at least two points, both of which impact local Indianapolis as well as nationwide public safety spending decisions.   First, all pertinent studies seem to agree that it is important for local policing authorities to know how their police spending and police presence relates to and compares to other similar metropolitan areas’ police spending and presence.  The national average spent on policing (not all areas of “public safety,” but policing) is $295 per capita per annum while the range is from $78 per capita to $853 per capita per annum.  Indianapolis, for example, has significantly smaller numbers of per capita police per 1000 residents than the national average—33% fewer police per 1000 residents, in fact (Duncan, 2014).  This figure would indicate that Indianapolis would be at the lower end of the national average for spending as it is with per capita police presence.  But the studies all agree that these numbers regarding per annum per capita spending on policing and number of police per capita are important to know for comparison’s sake. The second area on which studies seem to agree is that it is as important to know the city crime rate as it is to be aware of the per capita police spending and presence rates.  Although, as discussed above, the evidence regarding correlation between police spending or police presence and crime is mixed, it is generally considered important to know how a city’s crime rates for various offenses compare to its neighbors and to similar sized political units regionally and nationwide.




Figure (10) shows an upward trend in violent crimes for the city of Indianapolis.

Figure 10

Referring to Figures (3) and (4), a correlated trend appears that as total employment increased then crime decreased. A spike of crime appears to follow the year after the sharp drop in total employment. One aspect that may be important to note is the change in employment was due to a dramatic reduction in civilian workers.

Local Structural Trends in Public Safety

Fragmentation of law enforcement seems to have better results than consolidation into one giant police force. Yet, one set of studies argues that the real primary urban problem in sustainable financing of public safety has been the large number of jurisdictions within a single large city.  The argument is that fragmentation leads to confusion in responsibility for service provision as well as reduced political control and scrutiny.  The counter argument is that competition among large numbers of governments leads to lower costs as each government only provides what its small number of citizens’ desire (Dolan, 1990). Perhaps surprisingly, the vast majority of the studies on public safety, and government spending in general, certainly jibe with the Indianapolis experience with consolidation of the local Sheriffs and Police Departments. In short, that less consolidation and more fragmentation and decentralization lead to increased competition efficiency and lower costs with better performance (Boyne, 1992). However, some cities have not caught on to this concept and are still consolidating their public safety forces.

Both Indianapolis and Louisville have, within the last decade, consolidated their city and county police forces in hopes of reducing managerial redundancies and generating economies of scale.  Recently, both cities concluded that the effect of merging police forces with sheriff’s offices was just the opposite…costs went up and the number of officers remained unchanged even as the population grew (Stanich, 2013).  The transition costs outweighed any increased efficiency, and the competition that had led the previously decentralized departments to remain efficient was destroyed. As with raw police spending and numbers of officers per capita, the strong recommendation is to be aware of similar regional cities’ experiences. Louisville consolidated the police and sheriff’s offices first and now that Indianapolis has had a similar cost increasing experience with this type of consolidation, surrounding cities in other regions may want to take heed and avoid repeating this consolidation process and its increased expenses (Stanich, 2013).

The initial conclusion from seminal studies in the 1970s seems to remain true, which is that small and medium sized police services are more successful in battling crime and in maintaining efficient operating costs than much larger consolidated regional services (Ostrom, 1978). One reason may be that larger services tend to de-emphasize patrol in favor of specialized services like investigation, administration, crime labs, and communications. Policing seems mainly to be a local issue.

Eliminating the Box on Employment Apps

The only county in Indiana that prohibits asking about prior convocations on employment applications until after the first interview is consolidated Marion County (Doleac, 2016). Evidence nationally (three dozen “ban the box” jurisdictions have been surveyed) indicates that although those with an actual conviction are assisted in their job search by such bans, minorities and women overall are harmed.

In short, those with a conviction and white males benefit (particularly white males with a previous conviction) while minorities without a conviction and women (who are less likely to have a conviction in the first place) are harmed significantly by such bans (Agan, 2016).

High crime neighborhoods as a whole benefit from banning this box on employment applications, but one response that employers have to this type of ban is to raise experience requirements.  Women almost universally see their opportunities decreased by a ban on this type of question on initial applications, as do minorities in general and almost anyone without a conviction (Shoag, 2015).


Felix Rippy and USA Herald

Rippy as an author

As a professor, one of my teaching skills is about writing.  I ask my students to thoroughly investigate the topics they are writing about.

I have written many many articles of my own.  I have two new articles I wrote for USAHerald.com.  They are about school life.

The first one is regarding finding creative solutions to help solve the school funding mess.  The second one is about a Professor who was fired for a student free speech event that happened on a college campus.

Felix Rippy author in USA Herald
Felix Rippy author in USA Herald

Please read the articles and I welcome any comments or questions to my site here.

Student First Amendment Violations

Students Protesting

In late 2015, a group of students protested on the campus of the University of Missouri. To keep student journalists from getting involved, an assistant professor of communications, Melissa Click, attempted to block them.

Her actions resulted in being charged with assault and being fired from her job at the school. Since her actions to silent student journalists’ First Amendment rights, the University of Missouri has seen a decline in enrollment.

Actions will change things

Because of her actions, colleges and universities around the country would be wise to establish clear policies regarding First Amendment rights.  Also to form clear policies for student-led activities.

At this point in time, the Indiana University and IUPUI system does not have a policy in place.  They need to have one that clearly defines where the First Amendment’s freedom of speech.  Also, where freedom of the press can be fully expressed.

Labeling Spaces

Student Protests and defining policies by Felix Rippy
Student Protests and defining policies by Felix Rippy

A strong policy should include clearly labeled locations on campus and what can be done in those spots. There are three different types of spaces that can be designated for student-led activities: public, limited public, and assigned public spaces.

The public spaces include common areas, sidewalks, streets, and parks. Designated public spaces include classrooms, auditoriums, and public utilities spaces.

Student Use of Spaces

A well-crafted policy should include protections for groups that are meeting in private, like sororities and fraternities or political groups meeting to plan events.

The spaces where they meet should be free from intrusion by classic journalists. However, in public spaces, like parks or sidewalks, journalists should be allowed to enter those spaces and speak with students. However, even the term ‘journalist’ would need to be defined as bloggers is a reality in today’s world.

Addressing the Potential Issues

The policy should also include how protests can be covered by journalists. When the most protected types of speech need to be moved to safe areas, schools need to address how they observe this need and where the safe areas should be.

If Professor Clink and the University of Missouri had a policy in place that addressed the potential issues with the First Amendment on college campuses, they would not have their problems they are facing today. The IUPUI system needs to be proactive to avoid any fall out that could occur from First Amendment violations.

Financial Crisis in US Public Schools

Strategies for Struggling Schools

Public schools all over the United States are facing a financial crisis. One district that is in dire straits is the Muncie Community Schools (MCS) in Indiana.

Crisis in our Public School by Felix Rippy
Crisis in our Public School by Felix Rippy

This district has been handed over to emergency managers, who will most likely do what most of them do.  They close buildings and consolidate funds. There are, in fact, other ways to save struggling districts like the one that is affectionately known as Middletown, USA.

Eleven Strategies for Crisis in Schools

These eleven strategies have been tried and tested by other emergency managers and superintendents in other struggling districts. Most districts that have shuttered buildings to save money have not seen any long-term success financially.

These techniques have proven to help other districts, even some in the State of Indiana. Any combination of them could help MCS get back into the black.

1.) Use a program called Payments In Lieu of Taxation (PILOT) to make changes to the currently tax-exempt buildings within the MCS border.

2.) Force consolidation of nearby school districts to dilute the effects of these valuable properties not paying taxes.

3.) Implement a distressed-district program to the one already operational in Lake and Dearborn Counties.

4.) File for a referendum that would allow Delaware County to bypass the property tax caps.

5.) Create a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) or Business Improvement District (BID) district so local businesses could specifically assist MCS.

6.) Partner with private or other public entities to repair facilities or to buy underused MCS buildings

7.) Partner with the State of Indiana in their new Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) for grant opportunities.

8.) Partner with the Federal Government in the heavily funded upcoming Teacher and School Leader Incentive grant program.

9.) Seek a write off the $10 million special education cooperative “debt” to MCS itself.

10.) Pass a local sales or income tax to assist the schools.

11.) Utilize two foreign exchange student programs to pay tuition.