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Back to Archives | Back to October 2006 Contents 

Impact Of The Military Reserve Activation On Police Staffing

By Matthew J. Hickman, Ph.D., Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, D.C.

tate and local law enforcement's expanded role translates directly to personnel demands in terms of more officers, more hours from existing officers, or both. For example, in response to specific intelligence generated locally, from other sources, or in response to general U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) information broadcasts via Homeland Security Threat Advisories, Homeland Security Information Bulletins, and the multi-color Homeland Security Advisory System, many departments go to full staffing during times of elevated threat, bringing in all available officers for extended shifts.

At the same time of these increased demands on personnel and functions, state and local budgets have been constrained by the need to fund broader homeland security needs: additional statewide or state-level security functions, target hardening of high-risk locations and facilities, and other site-or event-specific security needs.

Federal funds for local law enforcement hiring have been diverted to these broader homeland security needs as well as to support the ongoing war on terror. This is reflected in extensive congressional earmarking, a dramatically reduced budget for the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, and reduced and/or eliminated formula grant programs.

The most recent step in this regression came as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2005, in which Congress merged the Edward Byrne Memorial Grant Program with the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant Program to create the Justice Assistance Grant Program (JAG). This merger came with an overall reduction in the total funds available: $495.5 million was eventually distributed by the formula process in Fiscal 2005, and for Fiscal 2006, total JAG funds were reduced to $292 million. JAG is presently proposed for elimination in Fiscal 2007.1 In short, there is a relative dearth of federal funding available for hiring, overtime, and other resource needs to support the vital expanded role of local law enforcement in homeland security.

Furthermore, fewer people are being hired to fill law enforcement positions. This decelerated growth may have been totally offset by other personnel constraints, one of which is the loss of sworn personnel who are military reservists called up to active duty.

This is an important policy issue for police executives. Some argue that individuals with military experience make desirable employees, and prior to September 11, 2001 there was a general sentiment among many reservists that reserve service was an extra paycheck and some additional benefits. But the ongoing war has made it very clear that reserve forces can and will be activated on a large scale.

Using the most recent available data from the Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics (LEMAS) Program2 administered by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, this article examines changes in state and local law enforcement staffing over the 12-month period ending June 30, 2003, including new hires, lateral hires, and separations such as resignations, dismissals, and retirements. It also estimates the total number of full-time sworn personnel who were called up as full-time military reservists during the 12month period, and therefore, were no longer available for local law enforcement duties. Finally, it also estimates the costs associated with the call-ups.

State and Local Agencies and Officers
As of June 30, 2003, there were nearly 16,000 general purpose state and local law enforcement agencies operating in the United States (see table 1) including 12,656 local police departments, i.e., municipal, county, regional, and tribal police departments. There were 3,061 sheriffs' offices, and the 49 primary state law enforcement agencies.3 These agencies employed an estimated 683,599 full-time sworn officers. About two-thirds of these officers (451,737) were employed by local police departments. Sheriffs' offices employed 174,251 officers, and the primary state agencies employed 57,611 officers.

The total employment figure at June 30, 2003 includes 51,466 total new hires including 7,669 lateral hires over the prior 12 months. There were 48,866 total separations from police employment. The balance of new hires and separations results in an overall net gain of 2,600 officers, or 0.4 percent during the 12-month period. Most of the gain in sworn police personnel was among local police departments, which collectively added 2,352 officers, an increase of 0.5 percent. Sheriffs' offices added 320 officers overall, about 0.1 percent, and the primary state agencies had a net loss of 72 officers, about -0.1 percent.

The average annual growth in employment among general-purpose law enforcement agencies has been about 1.5 percent per year since 1990, according to LEMAS data. The 0.4 percent increase estimated from LEMAS data for the year ending June 30, 2003, suggests a possible hiring deceleration, and supports recent anecdotal evidence from police chiefs across the country describing their difficulty in recruiting new officers.

Full-Time Military Reserve Call-Ups
Over the 12-month period ending June 30, 2003, 23 percent of all general-purpose state and local law enforcement agencies had officers who were military reservists and who were called up to active duty (see table 2). This includes 21 percent of local police departments, 31 percent of sheriffs' offices, and 96 percent of the primary state agencies.

An estimated 11,380 full-time sworn officers were called up as full-time military reservists. Most of these, about two-thirds, were officers from local police departments. About one quarter were from sheriffs' offices, and 9 percent were officers from the primary state agencies. As a proportion of all sworn officers in these agencies, these 11,380 officers constitute about 2 percent of the available workforce. Length of tours of duty is unknown.

Although call-ups are typically for 6 or 12-month deployments, some may be longer, and some shorter. Since this information was not collected in the 2003 LEMAS data, making assumptions about the availability of officers called up to active duty should be done cautiously, if at all. It is not known whether all or, more likely, some portion of these officers were on active duty at the same time.

Although the officers called to active duty constitute 2 percent of the available workforce overall, the impact on agencies serving small jurisdictions is much greater. Table 3 presents the reservist data with agencies stratified by jurisdiction size. As can be seen, 93 percent or almost all agencies serving large jurisdictions with 250,000 or more residents had officer reservists called up during the one-year period. These larger agencies contributed nearly half of the total reservists called-up during the one-year period.

However, due to the large size of these agencies, these reservists make up less than 2 percent of all sworn personnel in these large agencies. In contrast, only 10 percent of the more numerous agencies serving small jurisdictions of less than 10,000 residents had reservists called to active duty, contributing a little over 10 percent of the total number of officer reservists called to active duty. Due to these agencies' small size, however, the call-ups have a much greater impact: overall, these reservists made up about 11 percent of the sworn personnel in these agencies.

Estimating the Costs
Losing available personnel has a range of associated costs, some of which can be estimated and some of which cannot. For example, some departments may experience increasing overtime expenditures to compensate for the manpower loss. Another cost is associated with maintaining health benefits and holding personnel positions open to re-employ officers upon their return, as required under the 1994 Uniformed Services Employment and reemployment rights Act (USERRA).4

Costs to the communities served by smaller departments experiencing personnel losses are much harder to estimate. Personnel loss in these communities could possibly mean the difference between being able to provide 24-hour law enforcement service, or not, in some cases.

Agencies are not required to continue salary under USERRA since the federal government is paying the reservists for their service, although some states and localities make up the difference, if any, between the officer's regular salary and that which they receive for reserve service.5 This is not a trivial issue; depending on rank, reserve salaries may be substantially lower than that which an officer would have otherwise earned.6 In some cases, this could strain the resources of the families of deployed officers, who still have the normal financial obligations of any household. For these reasons, it is useful and instructive to estimate the costs associated with reserve call-ups.

A search of the literature dealing with the issue of police officer military reservists and associated costs found many references to the regulations and interpretations surrounding USERRA, but only one unpublished study conducted by staff of Senator Charles Schumer (D-new york).7 The Schumer study looked at 25 New York police departments and sheriffs' offices. Costs were estimated using an average reservist salary of $765 per week, subtracted from an agency's weekly expense in covering wages and benefits of a typical officer, and overtime expenses to replace the manpower, multiplied by the number of officer reservists. As an example, the Schumer study referred to the new york State Police, with 40 officers on active military duty at a total cost of $39,320 per week in salary and benefits, or $2 million if the call-ups last 12 months. Another example was the Albany Police Department, with five officers on active military duty, at a total cost of $2,137 per week in salary and benefits, or about $111,100 if the call-ups last 12 months.

LEMAS data allows an estimate of the direct costs of reservist call-ups, since the data include both total agency operating budgets as well as officer salary ranges. A rough upper-bound estimate was constructed by applying the agency operating cost per sworn officer to the number of reserve call-ups in an agency. A rough lower-bound estimate was constructed by applying the agency base starting salary, without benefits, to the number of reserve call-ups in an agency.

Table 4 presents the results of these estimates. As illustrated, the overall range is from $650 to $2,000 per officer, per week. The per-officer ranges are relatively similar across the different types of agencies, with higher upper bounds for sheriffs' offices and the primary state agencies. On a per agency basis, the range is from $2,050 to $6,280 per week.

Per-agency ranges were similar for local police departments and sheriffs' offices, with the upper bound being somewhat higher for sheriffs' offices, but much higher for the primary state agencies, ranging from $16,240 to $58,220. These estimates are consistent with those reported by Senator Schumer's staff; their weekly estimates for the New york State Police ($39,320) and the Albany Police Department ($2,137) fall within the bounds reported here for state police and local police, respectively.

Although the annualized cost of officer reservist call-ups is harder to estimate since there is no information available concerning the length of deployments, an annual estimate based on the bounds described above may be instructive. In sum, the estimated total cost ranges from $385 million to about $1.2 billion across all agencies, between $106,600 and $326,500 per agency, with substantially higher costs for state police, and $33,900 to $103,800 per officer.

To briefly summarize, during the one-year period ending June 30, 2003, the number of full-time sworn officers increased by about 2,600, or 0.4 percent. With an annual average growth since 1990 of about 1.5 percent per year, this provides some evidence of a hiring deceleration.

The overall net gain of 2,600 officers was at least partially offset by an estimated 11,380 officer reservists who were called-up to active duty during the one-year period and were unavailable for local law enforcement services. These call-ups comprise about 2 percent of the sworn personnel in those agencies overall, but typically 10 percent or more in smaller jurisdictions. The monetary cost to law enforcement is estimated to be somewhere between $0.4 and $1.2 billion on an annual basis.

The costs to the communities served by smaller departments experiencing personnel loss are harder to estimate, but some anecdotal evidence suggests that these communities may by significantly impacted. For example, Chief Dale repp of the Pottsville, Pennsylvania, Police Department, which had two of 24 officers from his patrol division called to active duty in 2003, said: "you can take a couple hundred people out of the New York City Police Department and it won't be nearly as disruptive as taking one or two people out of a department in a small town. It really becomes a quality-of-service issue for us."8

In a more extreme case, the Clifton Springs, New York, Police Department has two fulltime sworn officers serving about 2,200 residents. One of the two officers was called to active duty during 2003 for a six-month period. The county sheriff's office provided some back-up while the reservist officer was away, and Clifton Springs did compensate the officer while he was on active duty.

Indeed, the new york City Police Department, the largest police department in the United States, had 410 reservists called to active duty during the one-year period studied. With nearly 36,000 full-time sworn officers, the NYPD can absorb this loss of little more than 1 percent of their personnel. In fact, the NYPD lost nearly five times as many officers to retirements, 2,015, during the same time period.

Police executives must know the proportion of full-time sworn personnel who are reservists and must have a plan for handling mass call-ups. This is a serious problem since they cannot, according to current interpretations of USERRA, place quotas on the number of reservists in their agencies.

Due to the impact of the reserve call-up on law enforcement, future LEMAS surveys should continue to document reserve officer deployments. In particular, additional items enumerating the total number of reservist officers regardless of deployment status, as well as items on agency policies regarding reserve officer employment and reserve callups should be collected.

This information is critical to successful planning and policy development for law enforcement executives. It will also help law enforcement executives to understand the impact of reserve activation on local law enforcement, particularly in smaller communities. ■

1 International Association of Chiefs of Police, The Impact of the Proposed FY 2007 Budget on State and Local Law Enforcement (Alexandria, Virginia, March 2006) at ( August 10, 2006
2 The LEMAS program is presently the most systematic and comprehensive source of national data on law enforcement personnel, expenditures and pay, operations, equipment, computers and information systems, and policies and procedures. The LEMAS surveys provide national estimates for all state and local law enforcement agencies based on a representative sample of more than 3,000 agencies. LEMAS surveys have been conducted roughly every three years since 1987, and are available on the BJS Website: (
3 Hawaii does not have a state police organization.
4 The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA; 43
U.S.C. 38) is administered by the U.S. Department of Labor through the Veterans' Employment and Training Service.
5 For an explanation of USERRA as well as examples of how some local governments are responding to the reservist call up, see Judith Brown, "Military Leave: Supporting Employees," The Police Chief 71 (November 2004): 30-33.
6 Evidence on reserve/civilian earning gaps is mixed. For example, a recent RAND Corporation study cited Department of Defense data indicating that 60 percent of reservists surveyed in May 2004 reported earning less money while activated than they would have earned in their civilian jobs. In contrast, the RAND study found that 72 percent of sampled reservists earned more money while activated than they would have earned in their civilian jobs. The RAND study did not disaggregate reservists by civilian occupation, so it is not known how police officers fared. See J.A. Klerman, D.S. Loughran, and C. Martin, Early Results on Activations and the Earnings of Reservists (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2005): (
7 Staff of Senator Charles Schumer, How Have Reserve Call Ups Affected Police and Sheriff's Departments Across New York? (
8 K.M. Peters, "Stretched Thin," Government Executive (October 2003): (



From The Police Chief, vol. 73, no. 10, October 2006. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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