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Police Level of Service

Updated: Sep 14, 2020

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 Y1 Yr Calls-for-Services Avg 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


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)

Permit/Built Units/KSFAvg CFS Call Rate Avg New Expect 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


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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