How much per page?

Heralded by a City press release and a brief story buried inside the second section of today’s local daily, the 580-page document entitled Public Safety Police Operations is replete with fascinating factoids and plenty of opinions about what the police department, emergency management services, and the police monitor should be doing differently. Those who are more comfortable with report lite will find an executive summary on pages i through xiii. This document is an effort outsourced from the office of the city auditor, to the tune of $315,000. The local daily item bears this anodyne heading “Audit of police suggests ways to cut costs: Officials working to put many suggestions in place.”

There’s much more to the report than that, and it should not vanish without more comment than what runs along the lines of “we’re already doing what’s important and we’re doing it well and anything we’re not doing is because it’s not important.” The report, a year in the making, contains, according to the city auditor’s site, 123 recommendations, including 107 for the police department, 8 for emergency services, 7 for the police monitor, and one for the city manager’s office. The auditor’s site continues, “APD concurred with 89 recommendations, PSEM with 7, OPM with 7 and the City Manager’s Office did not concur with its recommendation.”

Among the many discussions of matters I’ve wondered about myself is a lengthy consideration of the cost of special events that use the streets and parks, as well as a discussion of the assignment of law enforcement officers and how the cost is figured and assessed. This portion of the report begins at section 5.4.2 (page 230, ending at page 244), concerning the special events unit of the police department. Other topics of interest include matters related to homeland security, traffic enforcement, training, the area or district commands, organization generally, and much, much more.

My favorite recommendation, and the police chief disagrees entirely with it, is to discontinue “air enforcement,” otherwise known as the airplane, plus the helicopter that rattles windows, shines searchlights into houses, awakens the innocent from their sleep many nights a week, and serves no apparent useful purpose. If I read the table correctly, this little item is budgeted to cost us a mere $1,691,400 for fiscal year 2008-09. And let’s not forget that fuel costs are rising. This recommendation is discussed in detail on pages 579-81. “This recommendation would save the city about $1 million annually in operating and insurance costs. The re-deployment of staff would result in an annual savings (cost avoidance) of $691,400.”

2 Comments so far

  1. miguel on March 26th, 2008 @ 9:47 pm

    Yeah, that chopper (what my friends affectionately call the "ghetto bird") used to wake me up all the time when I was living in Dove Springs. They should donate it to StarFlight or something.

    On another note, I had no idea APD had an actual airplane. I need to get out more.

  2. odoublegood on March 28th, 2008 @ 3:13 pm

    I think I’ve read nearly the entire report in PDF form, but I intend to obtain a printed copy: it’s that fascinating. One thing it shows is how the availability of various specific types of grants distorts the allocation of resources and results in non-helpful specialization. The findings, as with any such report, are more interesting than the recommendations. No words are minced, though. Here’s an example: "According to 2006 information provided by Air Enforcement, the unit spends 1,200 hours in the air each year, at a cost to the city of $1,068 per hour of operation. MGT’s review of computeraided dispatch (CAD) data, however, found that the unit spent just 296 hours responding to events in 2006, for an average of 22 hours per month. Based on the unit’s annual budget of approximately $2.2 million for 2007, that is about $7,430 per hour. Although the unit provides a useful service, its cost seems difficult to justify, given Austin’s growing demand for basic law enforcement services." I thought there would be a follow-up feature in the local daily, but no. When I looked into the outfit that prepared the report, I found a roster of some of the principals in the firm, several of whom truly are authorities in the field of criminal-justice administration. In this case, going out of house probably resulted in a stronger analysis, done by those not subject to any form of reprisal.

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