Friday, November 3, 2017

CSPD Chief Carey: city needs more than 100 more officers

Posted By on Fri, Nov 3, 2017 at 5:23 PM

There's been some back and forth over how many police officers Colorado Springs should employ, especial
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ly in light of the city's stormwater fee measure on the Nov. 7 ballot.

Some argue that Mayor John Suthers is pulling a bait and switch — get the new fee money and apply it to cops and firefighters — because the city's general fund already spends about $17 million a year on stormwater needs.

Suthers has repeatedly cited figures saying the CSPD is short handed.

Now, we have a memo from Police Chief Pete Carey to Councilor Don Knight fully explaining the shortage in terms of population, which should shed some light on the debate:

Mr. Greene asked me to respond to your question about CSPD staffing.
The chart below shows the overall data shown in the Governing magazine article you referred to in your email to Chief of Staff Greene.

Although the average number of police officers employed for every 10,000 residents by localities with populations of at least 50,000 is 16.6, that is not the data most relevant to the City of Colorado Springs. Given that 584 of the 690 localities cited in the article have populations at or below 200,000 (nearly 85%), the overall average number of officers employed is obviously skewed toward those smaller localities. The more relevant figures are those shown in bold for jurisdictions with populations of 200,000 to 500,000. That data indicates the average number of officers employed for every 10,000 residents in those jurisdictions is 18.6.

Population numbers are estimates, and I don’t know what source Sarah used to provide the population estimate for Colorado Springs that you cite in your email. I will note that the City’s 2018 Annual Budget publication estimates a 2017 population of 466,846 and a 2018 estimated population of 473,894. Additionally, the 2016 FBI Crime in the United States report estimates a 2016 population of 464,113 for Colorado Springs, and the Colorado State Demography Office 2016 population estimate for Colorado Springs is 460,953. I respectfully suggest that a current population estimate of approximately 460,000 is more realistic for this purpose.

At our recent CSPD annual supervisors conference held last month, Mayor Suthers said he thought the average number of officers per 10,000 residents for cities our size was around 17.5. As shown above, that figure is actually a little low according to the Governing magazine article. However, that number in conjunction with a population estimate of 460,000 results in a total of 805 officers (17.5 x 46 = 805). That is 119 more positions than we are currently allotted (805 - 686 = 119). Using a different estimated population number will obviously have an impact on the total number of officers that is calculated. I believe the Mayor is simply being realistic in seeking to move us most, but not all, of the way toward the average number of officers per 10,000 residents that the article suggests we should have (18.6).

I’d note as well that even the population estimate you cite in your email results in a total of 817 officers if we use the average for cities with populations of 200,000-500,000 (43.9706 x 18.6 = 817.8). That is 131 positions above our current authorized strength of 686.

Lastly, I’d like to point out that the FBI has recently released their 2016 Crime in the United States publication. That data indicates the average number of officers per 1,000 residents is 1.8 in the West/Mountain Region for cities with populations above 250,000. Using a population estimate of 460,000, to be average for our region, CSPD would have to have 828 officers or 142 more than we have now (1.8 x 460 = 828). The same publication indicates that the national average for cities with populations above 250,000 is 2.6 officers per 1,000 residents. Being average from a national perspective would mean that CSPD would have 1,196 officers. That’s 510 more officers than we have now.

While adding 120 officers won’t completely get us where we need to be, at least with respect to our region, it gets us in the ballpark.
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Here's Knight's email to Chief of Staff Jeff Greene that triggered Carey's explanation:

I am getting ready for the budget mark up in a couple of weeks figuring we are going to fund new police officers regardless how 2A comes out. I am not finding how the Mayor came to the 120 figure though.

According to Sarah Johnson in her redistricting last Nov, our City population was 439,709 people. According to Governing magazine: “Cities' police officer per capita rates vary depending on a range of factors. In 2015, police departments serving cities with populations exceeding 50,000 employed an average of 16.6 officers and 21.4 total personnel for every 10,000 residents”

Multiply 16.6 in 43.9706 means we would need 730 officers to be at the National average. With 686 sworn billets today, that leaves us 44 short. How does the Mayor come up with 120 please?

Don Knight
Colorado Springs City Council, District 1

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