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The Michigan State study reviewed existing methods of determining manpower requirements. This study notes that "... no method is free from arbitrary, subjective judgments, some of the methods that have been and are being used by police departments to justify manpower are completely inadequate except as psychological levels which can be used to move administrators, naive taxpayers and councilmen." (p.3)
Specifically, the study points out that the most prevalent approaches used are (1) comparison of police per population ratios, and (2) comparison of crime rates. Each method will be discussed below.
Comparison of Police per Population Ratios
Utilization of this method involves a comparison between communities of approximately similar population and number of police officers per 1,000 population. It is usually expressed as a ratio. The current national average is 2.0 officers per 1,000 computed on an annual basis. The MSU study cited earlier points out that this method is based on false assumptions as follows:
First, it ignores community differences such as social and
This method also assumes equal competency on the part of police officers. Because of the wide variation in recruitment, selection and training standards, we know that this assumption is totally invalid. Finally, this method assumes that what is sufficient for one department is sufficient for another. By way of example, the National Commission on Productivity analyzed data on police per 1,000 population and found that:
wide dispersion exists among cities of like size, much larger than the dispersion as a function of population size. For example, among cities of 60,000 to 70,000 population, there is an almost four-fold variation (0.7 to 2.7 employees per thousand), with a mean of 1.6 employees per thousand.
and a half times variation (1.4 to 3.6 employees per 1,000).
As this discussion indicates, the use of comparative ratios of police per 1,000 population among like-sized cities leaves much to be desired. The attractiveness of this measure rests in its ease of computation; however, it is clear that it lacks any objective validity.
Comparison of Crime Rates
This is another popular method of manpower justification used by many U.S. police agencies. This method starts with a base period and assumes that available manpower at that time was sufficient to deal with the crime problem. Fluctuations in subsequent crime rates are analyzed and are used to justify requests for additional manpower. The earlier referenced Michigan State Study points out the following deficiencies of
...it does not take into consideration other aspects of the
Additionally, crime statistics can be manipulated even without the user being dishonest or in violation of procedures.
With respect to this latter point, enormous rate changes can occur when improved reporting procedures are instituted. Recent research clearly indicates that the actual, as opposed to the reported, crime rate is at least two to five times higher.
The Home Office Police Research and Development Branch conducted an extensive study in 1967 and 1968 entitled Assessment of Police Establishment by Formula. The state purposes of this research were to:
Analyze the apparent diffe.ences in standards between one
Examine the factors which have a bearing on police establishments and to select those which are reliable and measurable.
Create a common standard of manning based on acceptable
It is first worth quoting several of the major assumptions of this study before discussing its findings. With respect to "adequate" police protection, the authors of this study stated:
Although in their 1962 report the "Royal Commission on Police"
In the absence of a more objective criterion we have no alternative but to take such generally accepted standards of policing as a basis on which to build a formula. (p. 3)
In short, this group found that there is at present "no absolute standard of policing, a formula is not likely to provide a single number of men required by a force at a particular time."
The study goes on to point out the reasons for this situation. As they note, some towns have always enjoyed a high standard of policing because they have strong community spirit, adequate resources, a pleasant environment, and so forth. On the other hand, other communities have always been short of policement because of the poverty of the city, even balances between political parties, (which inhibit both parties from supporting actions that lead to tax increases), or an inability to attract a sufficient number of able police recruits because of the unattractive characteristics of the town combined with high wage rates in local industry. They conclude that:
own standard of policing and "adequate" policing now means
The study group developed a series of "formulae" for computing manpower requirements based primarily on population, crime rate, road miles, and total acreage. Three types of formulae are presented for large urban, suburban, and rural areas. After reviewing these methods in detail, it is concluded that they are based on false assumptions and are invalid for our purposes.
This is not to say that they are wrong, only that they represent the state of the art at the present time.
To develop a "truly" objective manpower requirement for law enforcement, it would be necessary to locate (in economic terms) the point of diminishing manpower returns. This "point" is where the amount of social and monetary costs incurred by adding an additional police officer is greater than the benefits derived from his or her presence. As John Angell has noted in commenting on this issue:
The trouble with attempting to apply this is the impossibility of isolating all the social and economic costs involved. Since this is not presently possible, it is impossible to determine the point of diminishing returns
In the absence of such a measure, many theorists recommend basing manpower requirements on weighted variables such as:
1. 2. 3.
5. 6. 7. 8.
The trouble with tuis ile trud is that these are subjective factors thought to have some réiationship to the demand for police services. The few studies availabic that have attempted to correlate police service demand with srcial nd demographic variables are generally ambiguous. For example, the Rand Corporation in studying the relationship of demand for service to socioeconomic data in 30 large cities found:
.. the most disturbing and surprising results occur for the correlation of Index Crimes per capita with the demographic variables (percent non-white, percent poor under $3,000, percent age 15-29, percent moving within past two years). No significant pairwise correlations exist at all.
The Urban Institute Report on police productivity studied this question and produced different results. They found that:
In no case did the socioeconomic variations explain more than
11 a small part of the effectiveness and productivity variations.
Again, based on these results, aside from the fact that no comparable studies are available for recreation areas, we must conclude that the use of this method is simply not applicable.
The most common method used by sophisticated U.S. police agencies to estimate needed manpower requirements is the evaluation of past workloads. For example, if in year "X", the police agency investigated 2,000 traffic accidents, and each accident required 2 man-hours to fully investigate, then we know that 4,000 man-hours are absolutely necessary to process this type of event. In justifying its budget request the police agency then projects the expected number of accidents for the coming year, applies the workload factor and computes necessary manpower needs. However, such a method also has some major conceptual difficulties. The Michigan State study mentioned earlier states that this method is based on several assumptions, which, if wrong, render the estimates inaccurate:
The department is administratively and organizationally sound