The appropriate level of manpower within the Tulsa Police Department has been a major point of contention between the Mayor and the police union president in the past few months, but Interim Police Chief David Bostrom told city councilors last week that he's calling in outside help to settle the question.
He sent out a request for proposals on July 9 for an independent management analysis on appropriate staffing levels, and is hoping to identify a vendor in early August.
Bostrom is a former employee of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, which is one of the bidders for the contract, so he's recusing himself from the committee weighing the proposals and awarding the contract.
Prior to Bostrom's hiring as Tulsa's temporary top cop, Mayor Kathy Taylor was catching heat from members of the city's law enforcement community, including Darin Filak, president of the local Fraternal Order of Police chapter, for what they saw as broken campaign promises to increase police manpower levels.
The budget she approved only included spots for 20 new police academy seats, which Filak said is not enough to maintain the current ranks of 814 sworn officers by offsetting the force's attrition rate of 2.2 officers per month.
Taylor told UTW that the 20 new hires were what TPD representatives told her would "keep us stable" and that pay and benefit increases have lowered the attrition rate from last year's 3.4 per month.
However, according to the copy of the budget request submitted by TPD, what they actually requested were two academy classes of 20, along with 20 new non-sworn personnel.
Taylor pointed out, at 814, police ranks are already swelled well past the authorized 780 sworn personnel.
On the other hand, at 108, the department is well below the 133 authorized non-sworn personnel.
"We'd love to have the resources to hire more police," Taylor said, but 31 percent of the general fund is already budgeted for police while "significant cuts" have been made in other departments, she told UTW.
Filak isn't convinced.
"The city isn't as cash-strapped as they lead people to believe; their priorities just aren't where they should be," he said.
In his objections to the Mayor's police budget, Filak pointed to a previous study conducted by IACP, as well as an internal TPD study from last year using IACP methodology, which indicated the department needs 245 more officers to get Tulsa's ratio of officers to citizens up to the regional average.
Sgt. Richard Alexander of TPD's Headquarters Division said Tulsa's current ratio is 2.03 officers to 1,000 citizens, compared to the regional average of 2.5 and the national of 2.8.
Bostrom, though, told city councilors last week that police-to-population ratios aren't as important in determining the department's effectiveness as the number of calls for service and the number of officers required to answer them in a timely manner.
"A better formula might be response time than population ratios," he said.
"Cities vary significantly from one place to another," Bostrom explained.
California, for instance, typically has very small ratios of police-to-population--usually one officer per thousand citizens, but "a significant number" of civilian employees doing jobs that sworn officers would do in other cities, he said.
On the other hand, he previously told UTW, "When I was in Washington, D.C., they had more police per capita than any other city in the country, but at the same time it was the murder capital of the United States."
Bostrom said his hometown of Wilmington, Del. has twice the population of Tulsa but fewer calls for service.
"People who live outside Tulsa also come in from the suburbs, and they may be responsible for a lot of our calls for service, right?" asked Councilor Rick Westcott, which the Chief answered in the affirmative.
Bostrom told councilors that the study is to determine the number of people needed "respond to emergency and non-emergency requests for police service in a timely manner, handle community partnership and problem-solving responsibilities, conduct discretionary proactive neighborhood activities" and meet administrative requirements.
Another significant feature of the study will be determining what duties currently fulfilled by sworn officers can instead be fulfilled by civilian employees, whose training, salaries and benefits cost less than trained officers.
Bostrom said he expects the analysis to begin in mid-August, but didn't specify how much time it would take.
"We're talking months," he said.
Filak isn't terribly enthusiastic about it.
"This will be the third study on the issue," he said, referring to the studies previously cited.
The previous studies, Filak said, examined the same questions Bostrom said the study to come will address, and came to same conclusion the union prez has emphasized all along: the police department needs more officers.
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