For many promotion candidates, the department’s budget is not an area of familiarity, putting the candidate in a position of higher speculation – rather than certainty – as to what the panel is seeking. Because budgets and budgeting are clearly management tasks, questions in that area do not usually occur in corporal or sergeant processes, and many times not even at lieutenant processes. However, as a captain candidate, you are now taking on a rank that has a significantly higher level of management responsibility. For that reason, you should be prepared to demonstrate for the panel your familiarity with budgeting in general, your department’s budget in specificity, and your creativity in ideas for accomplishing more at a lower cost.
Without reducing personnel, what recommendations do you have for reducing the PD’s budget?
“As asked, your question is seeking recommendations. As a captain who is a member of this department’s command staff, it is important to keep my role in mind when making recommendations. Things that I may have seen as simplistic changes from my prior perspective will not necessarily complement what the chief is seeking to accomplish. For that reason, I must remember that the chief has likely constructed a thoughtful budget based on community needs, department needs, and future projections. Any recommendations that I make must align with all of these.
I am well aware that the chief’s priorities are keeping the members of our community safe, keeping the community free of crime and the fear of crime, and assuring a high quality of life for all that enter or reside in our jurisdiction. Therefore, the recommendations that I make will minimize any disruptions to these key objectives that the chief holds.
Your question excludes any recommended reductions regarding personnel. This is important because in our agency, personnel costs represent 90% of our budget. Therefore, any reduction that I achieve has to be focused on the remaining 10%, which comprises our operating budget and our capital budget.
With regards to our operating budget, I propose creative cost reductions rather than any total eliminations; such cost reductions are:
Reducing training costs through more train-the-trainer programs. We have very talented personnel in our police department who are quite capable of serving as trainers for others in our department. Sending one or two officers to a train-the-trainer course on domestic violence prevention, for example, is much more cost effective than purchasing attendance, whether that be in person or online, for all sworn personnel.
Second, I would reduce operating costs by pursuing more local, state, and federal grants. While the spectrum of operating costs that can be offset by grants may be narrow, every dollar that is attained through grants is another dollar that does not come out of our operating budget.
Third, I would recommend data-driven adjustments coupled with resource sharing. For example, through data analysis we can predict how to deploy officers for maximum effectiveness. This will also show when deployments are least effective. By adjusting assignments to maximize effectiveness and efficiency without reducing personnel, more assignments can be covered and overall effectiveness should be improved.
As for the capital budget, I would once again consider grants, in concert with regional purchasing initiatives to achieve better volume discounts and lease vs purchase evaluations to assure that we are being good stewards of our community’s funds.
And that is how I would go about formulating budget reduction recommendations.”