Cost Accounting in Local Government

Police Level of Service

Police management staff often discuss Levels of Service (LOS) staffing in terms of “officers per 1,000 residents.”    Since it is often a simplistic comparison from one agency to another, it simply does not have much value.     This method can be rebuffed by the simple question, “If you have 1.18 officers per 1,000 residents, and the agency experiences five years of development of commercial and industrial buildings, you therefore won’t need any more officers?”  OK, that doesn’t work. But what works better?

Over my years conducting Development Impact Fee studies for a great number of public agencies, I developed a method that creates a valid nexus between land-uses.  Calls-for-service (henceforth CFSs) by land-use provides much better management information.  It uses two simple data sets and hopefully that GIS wizard the City has can generate them for you.  You can accomplish it by hand count, but that can take a fair amount of time with results that are probably less accurate.

The two data sets that you need are:

  1. The number of units of private sector land-uses (e.g. detached dwellings unit, mobile home units, square feet of office space, retail, industrial, etc.). You can pick which ever land-uses are relevant to your agency, but it should cover all of your private sector development CFSs.   The table following will identify the land-uses that I have found will cover most agencies.
  2. The number of law enforcement calls-for-service to each one of those land-uses for the most recent year (fiscal or calendar). Be sure that the land-use database information represents the same time period as the calls-for-service calculation.

With those two sets of data we can set up the following table and determine the average number of CFSs by land-use.  This is the data I received from the GIS Wiz from a City of just under 180,000 and has 225 sworn officers.  The total of 38,247 CFSs accounts for over 90% of all CFSs with the remainder being ROW, government property, and NOC calls.  When the 38,247 CFSs are divided by the 225 sworn officers, you get an average of 170 annual CFSs per sworn officer.  Of course, there are many officers that do not respond to CFSs but are support or specialty officers. But this is not intended to be anything more than an average and treats all other specialty demands (investigations, etc.) as a function of CFSs.

Determination of Average CFS
per Unit by Land-use Types for One Year

DIF land-use Type
Existing Units or KSF
One Year of Calls-for-Services
Average CFS Call Rate
Detached Dwelling
25,056
16,047
0.640/Unit
Attached Dwelling
12,045
6,889
0.572/Unit
High Density Dwelling
40
23
0.572/Unit
Mobile Home Dwelling
2,511
868
0.346/Unit
Hotel/Motel Units
4,338
1,030
0.237/Unit
Retail/Srvce Use KSF
9,709
8,615
0.887/KSF
Office Use KSF
915
1,082
1.183/KSF
Business Park KSF
1,307
495
0.379/KSF
Industrial use KSF
125,963
2,735
0.022/KSF
Institutional Use KSF
2,766
463
0.167/KSF
Total CFSs
38,247

Now we’re talking.  So let’s use this new data one year later during the budget process when the Chief asks for a certain number of additional officers to maintain the level of Service (LOS) and the budget office offers another number (and we all know that number is lower).    How can we get a more accurate number?  The land-use averages accomplish this.  First, go to the Building and Safety Division and get the number of units that have been permitted and/or built in the previous fiscal year.  We then put those figures into the following table with our new average CFSs per type of land-use.

Determination of Newly Anticipated Law Enforcement CFSs

for Development Permitted/Constructed in the Previous Year

DIF land-use Type (from Previous Table)
Permitted or Built Units or KSF
Average CFS Call Rate from Pervious Table
Average # of Newly Expected CFSs
Detached Dwellings
735
0.640/Unit
470
Attached Dwellings
685
0.572/Unit
392
High Density Dwelling
128
0.572/Unit
73
Mobile Home Dwelling
3
0.346/Unit
1
Hotel/Motel Units
120
0.237/Unit
28
Retail/Srvc Use KSF
35
0.887/KSF
31
Office Use KSF
65
1.183/KSF
77
Business Park KSF
720
0.379/KSF
273
Industrial use KSF
25
0.022/KSF
1
Institutional Use KSF
8
0.167/KSF
1
Total New CFS
1,347

So, we take the estimated increase in CFSs and divide by 170 average CFSs handled per sworn officer and get 7.92 officers as the number of additional sworn officer needed to merely maintain the same level of service as the previous year.  Increasing the level of service?  Well that’s a policy decision, but certainly this type of information would assist even with that.

This process works, but you just need to have the will to generate the information.  This process can also be used to determine future additional demands upon fire suppression/paramedic services.  In fact, it’s easier because fire staff record incidents (think NFIRS data) in terms of type of dwellings (for the most part), while law enforcement thinks in terms of type of crime.  This could be easily adjusted by having police officers record CFSs in terms of land-use of crime as well as the type.  There are a number of collateral uses for the data also, but that’s another article.

Oh, and by the way, it is not unusual for Attached Dwelling Units to generate an average CFS rate per unit that is lower than Detached Dwellings.

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