Hiring officers is a wise investment,
not a burdensome cost

by George Hofstetter
George Hofstetter
New research shows that hiring more law enforcement officers is money well spent, as more officers lead to less crime, and is financially beneficial to the community.  The hiring of police officers and deputy sheriffs is actually a financial boon to local governments rather than a budget drain, as some have argued in the past.
A study by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) found that every additional police officer hired has the effect of cutting 1.3 violent crimes and 4.2 property crimes each year. There is also a financial benefit to the community as each additional officer is estimated to reduce the total cost of crime for local residents by more than $300,000.  On a cost benefit analysis, the decreased cost of crime, far exceeds the cost of hiring an officer, making the hiring of officers and deputies a highly cost-effective investment for our citizens and local government.  The positive impacts to overtime reduction, tort-mitigation through increased training and other operational savings sit atop the findings in this study.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors should take heed of these findings. The number of Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies plunged 5.3 percent between 2008 and 2015, from 7,848 to 7,435.  This cut of over 400 deputies occurred at a time when the county's population and our operational demands were growing.  As of June, LASD  has 1,165 vacant "authorized" deputy positions, and an additional 234 vacant sergeant and lieutenant positions left unfilled.  Based on mandatory overtime loads, training reductions, the continued reliance on CARPing and other symptoms of the deputy shortage, ALADS estimates the shortage of deputies to exceed 1,800.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's deputy shortage is severe and mirrors the trend statewide, where the number of sworn law enforcement officers fell 5 percent between 2008 and 2015, resulting in the number of officers per 100,000 residents dropping from 221 to 198.  Agencies across the state (and nation for that matter) are aggressively recruiting police officers and deputy sheriffs from an ever shrinking pool.  One county official recently characterized the current environment as a "talent war."
The shrinking of law enforcement ranks has been accompanied with a rising crime rate across California, including Los Angeles County and Los Angeles City. The LASD reported increases of 5.5 percent in violent crimes and 8.2 percent in property crimes in 2015 through November,  compared with the same period in 2014.  In fact, we recently documented the cost of Prop 47 and increased crime, using the widely accepted Rand Corporation "cost of crime" calculator.

Some of the increase in crime is certainly due to the social engineering disaster known as Proposition 47, which reclassified a litany of serious felonies as misdemeanors and incentivized property crimes. But, it's logical to conclude there's a correlation between rising crime and shrinking police forces too. If there are quantifiable benefits from each additional police hire, it stands to reason that each sworn officer lost results in negative crime impacts.
Local governments have the ability to reverse this harmful attrition trend. The PPIC study notes that local law enforcement protection is largely funded by mechanisms that local governments control, such as business and sales taxes, local fees and fines and voter-approved sales tax increases. Outside funding sources include property taxes, and federal and state grants.
But reversing the trend will require local governments to be forward thinking. They must recognize and acknowledge that hiring officers is an investment that pays significant, and almost immediate, dividends.
The easy thing to do when faced with budget crunches is cut spending; it takes truly visionary leadership to buck this entrenched way of thinking and blaze a bold new path in public safety policy.

George Hofstetter is President of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs. ALADS is the collective bargaining agent and represents more than 8,200 deputy sheriffs and district attorney investigators working in Los Angeles County.  George can be contacted at ghofstetter@alads.org.
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