In an Era of Austerity: Chief-to-Chief Lessons on the Consolidation of Law Enforcement Services

The downturn in the economy that began in 2008 and continues today, particularly at the city and county level, has had a devastating impact on local policing. The COPS Office analysis of 2011 estimated that at least 40,000 law enforcement positions were lost through either layoffs or defunding of vacated positions.1 This loss of capacity, which does not include an estimated 28,000 furloughed officers, has produced enormous changes in the nature of police service delivery.

The projected nature of these changes include greater usage of technology as a force multiplier, greater usage of civilians—both as employees and volunteers—alternative responses to non-emergency radio calls, and consolidation of both core services and entire agencies.2 It is within this last category that the discussion of mergers, contracting, and sharing services occurs.