Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Detroit Police Department - Money Without Results

I have long been curious about how the Detroit Police Department's budget stacks up against other departments in cities our size. Therefore, I decided to spend some time going through data from the U.S. Census Bureau and cross-referencing it with budget data from the City of Detroit as well as other cities of similar size to Detroit.

Specifically, I looked at cities with a population that is less than 1 million but more than 500,000.  There are twenty six communities in the United States that meet this criteria, including Detroit. The results were  somewhat surprising.

The bottom line is the Detroit Police Department has a budget that is 32.2% above average on a per resident basis.  In spite of this, our police response time and case closure rates are well below average.  This is in spite of the fact that Detroit also a population density that is 32.4% higher than average.

There are reasons commonly given as for why the Detroit Police Department has the problems that it does:
  • Some blame it on Detroit's low population density;
  • Others argue that the Detroit Police Department isn't given the resources that it needs.
In my opinion, this data refutes both arguments. Our police department has a greater than average budget while our city, as a whole, as an above average amount of density.

I believe that we, as a community, need to take a very close look at the money that we are spending on DPD and what it is spent on. I have a few examples to illustrate this point.

In most cities, the Office of the Chief of Police consists of a chief, a deputy chief, a secretary, and a couple of assistants.  In Detroit, however, the Office of the Chief consists of fifteen people with a budget of $2.6 million.

If we simply brought the budget for the Office of the Chief in line with national averages, that would be enough money to put an additional three dozen police officers on the streets.

We also have seven assistant and deputy chiefs of police that have their own "office of" staff.  Between them, they cost us almost $12 million.  If we bring this in line with national averages, it would save enough money to put approximately additional four hundred police officers on the streets.

There are also areas where job duties seem to overlap.  We have an Assistant Chief - Administration as well as a Deputy Chief - Management Services Bureau.  Both are responsible for back-office operations - such as payroll, grant management, and so on - but they're separate entities within DPD.  This hardly seems efficient.

In my opinion, having a budget for the police department that is 32.2% higher than national averages while frequently failing to deliver on services is simply intolerable. I believe it's time for us as a community to take a very close look at what we are spending our money on.

For those who are interested, all of the data that I used is available on-line. A summary of the population density for cities with a population of between 1 million and 500,000 is available here. The population data for each city came from the U.S. Census Bureau.

A summary of the budget for police departments in this population category is available here. The raw data for police budgets came from each of the individual cities. Links to each city's budget are available here.

Update - May 26, 2011
With the 2010 Census complete and its results released, Detroit now has a population of 713,777 people. This translates into a population density of 5,142 people per square mile, which is 8.2% above average for cities of our population size (less than 1 million but more than 500,000) and down from the 32.4% above average that I reported above.

As one continues to adjust for the new Census numbers, the Detroit Police Department now has a budget of $581.11 per resident, which is 66.3% above average for cities our size. The Detroit City Council has proposed $12 million in cuts to the Department, which would mean that its budget would still be 61.1% above average.
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