The Miami Herald had a story this week about Miami Police Chief Miguel Esposito moving officers out of uniformed patrol positions to fill positions in specialized units. From the story:
Over the past two years, Police Chief Miguel Exposito has transferred between 130 and 140 patrol officers to specialized units that target more-sophisticated criminals — robbers, drug dealers and gang members among them. The chief says the move has made Miami safer, as hardened criminals have been sent to prison and more than 1,000 guns have been confiscated.
Keeping more officers in patrol units would “put presence in the street and save money, but it’s not going to get the job done,” the chief told city commissioners last month. “All we have are officers writing reports all day, and there’s nothing being done to get the criminals off the street.’’
Still, there are down sides to beefing up the tactical units at the expense of patrol.
City Manager Johnny Martinez points to a less-visible police presence, which residents frequently complain about. And because supervisors must shuffle patrol officers to fill 24-hour shifts, the department is projected to spend $6.2 million in overtime this year — more than twice as much as the $2.5 million that had been budgeted.
Of course anytime you create new specialized units, the officers to fill those units have to come from somewhere. If you aren't hiring new officers to fill those vacancies you may end up "robbing Peter to pay Paul". In today's fiscally precarious times, the old way of handling staffing shortages, throwing overtime money at the problem, is going to be a lot harder to stomach.
When a particularly vexing crime problem appears, we need to be cautious about creating new investigative units just to solve those problems. Of course, often times the motivation to create a shiny new specialized unit comes from outside the department. Anxious city administrators pressure a department to "do something" about a crime problem and the department fearing the appearance of inaction announces the creation of a new unit.
Departments facing a particular crime problem would do well to analyze the problem in detail before committing to a solution like creating a specialized unit. Because once you create a shiny new investigative unit, they are danged hard to get rid of.
This is where your crime analysis unit can help. A crime analyst can help your agency with identifying the nature of the problem, developing possible solutions and the resources needed to carry them out. They will also assess the response to the problem and help your agency adjust your response to make it effective.
As an analyst, what are you doing to help your agency tackle the crime problems in your community with existing resources?