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Memo: Cuts Will Mean Fewer Cops at Community Functions

by ARLnow.com | March 1, 2013 at 10:00 am | 90 Comments

Police investigate a bank robbery at the Bank of America at 3600 S. Glebe RoadProposed county budget cuts would mean fewer police officers available for neighborhood meetings and events and a reduction in “quality of life” community policing.

As we previously reported, Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s proposed FY 2014 includes the elimination of seven police officer positions by attrition. A new police memo details the potential impacts of those cuts.

“Until now, the Police Department has been able to make reductions without significantly affecting important programs,” says the memo. “That is no longer possible.”

The memo, which was written by three ACPD captains and sent to community groups, is below.

I wanted to share with you the latest news on the County’s Fiscal Year 2014 Budget, and how it will affect policing in Arlington.

As you may know, County Manager Barbara Donnellan recently presented her Proposed Budget to the County Board.  She explained that Arlington faces a $22 million budget gap, and proposed closing that gap with a mix of service cuts and a tax rate increase. All County departments have been asked to make cuts.

When asked to identify potential areas for reduction, the police department examined many potential options for reductions including:

  • Responding to calls for police service
  • Enforcement
  • Follow-up investigations

After evaluating potential options, the decision has been made to propose reductions in staffing levels to the current District Policing Teams.  I can assure you that we remain committed to working with the community to ensure that Arlington remains a great place to live, work and visit, but these staff reductions will impact the manner in which the teams currently do business.  We truly value our partnerships with the Arlington Community and will work diligently to continue these strong relationships.  Here are some details about the proposed reductions and how they will change the way we do community policing.

District Policing Team reductions

Twenty officers are currently assigned to the three District Policing Teams. The proposed reduction would ultimately trim that number to 13 sworn staff members. In addition, we will re-assign one captain position currently assigned to the District Teams to form an Operational Support Unit. The Operational Support Unit will be responsible for most of the ancillary duties currently assigned to the district captains and patrol commanders, allowing them to focus on core functions.  We will reorganize our District Policing in two phases.

Phase I

Should the Board accept the reductions as proposed, we will reorganize from three to two Community Policing Teams. These teams will still be geographically assigned.  The exact geographic boundaries have yet to be determined, but our initial plan is to use Route 50 as a dividing line. Any civic associations which exist on both sides of Arlington Boulevard would be assigned to one team, for consistency. In this phase, each team will have one captain, one sergeant, one corporal and three officers.

Phase II

Through attrition, the two teams will eventually be further consolidated to one large team. This single team will include one captain, two sergeants, two corporals and eight officers.  We anticipate that this phase will occur sometime in the next 18 months.

The positions eliminated from the current District Team configuration will be re-assigned to core function areas within the Department.

We realize that some in the community may be concerned about these proposed changes. As you know, communities across the nation have faced years of constrained budgets, the result of the financial crisis, subsequent recession and slow economic recovery. We in Arlington remain very fortunate – we have been able to preserve our core services. Until now, the Police Department has been able to make reductions without significantly affecting important programs. That is no longer possible.

We remain committed to continuing our community partnerships and community policing efforts.  While the staff reductions will certainly limit our ability to continue to provide community policing services at current levels, I can assure you that we will do our best to provide the community with the highest level of service possible.  Our initial assessment of areas where the community may realize a reduction in service from the community policing teams could include the following:

  • Fewer community, civic, business, security meetings/workgroups attended
  • Less participation in general and safety presentations
  • Less opportunity to participate in community events such as picnics, parades, etc.
  • Fewer staff to focus on quality of life issues in a specific community

We will work collaboratively to facilitate a smooth transition into this new structure, should it be adopted.  At this point, no decisions have been made regarding staff assignments, but should the County Board adopt the proposed reductions we will make assignments quickly and ensure that you are kept informed.

Hat tip to John Antonelli

Section: News | Tags: , ,
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  • Smarmy

    Too bad they couldn’t instead trim the amount of time officers have to spend on Sunday mornings meeting their traffic ticket quotas.

    • Arl Native

      Don’t speed, then ticket quotas won’t concern you.

      Better yet, become a cop, risk your life and avoid tickets all together.

      It seems to me every week a cop in the DMV is injured in the line of duty, let them do their jobs.

      • SomeGuy

        That’s a very myopic take. Law enforcement quotas concern me whether I speed or not. They encourage shoddy “hunting excursion” policing, they’re abused as a revenue source, and they potentially divert law enforcement attention from more pressing matters. Several states and municipalities have introduced legislation to ban the practice for those reasons, among others. As a citizen who lives under police authority, respectfully checking police powers will ALWAYS be my concern.

        • G Clifford Prout

          They’re not quotas in Arlington. They’re “proactivity expectations.” Get with the program.

      • ARL

        You don’t actually understand quotas then.

        They encourage the police to find speeders who aren’t really speeding, to make the quota. They hope the accused will just pay up and not bother to fight, or not know they weren’t speeding.

        • Clarendon

          I don’t think they have to resort to pulling people that are not speeding. Everyone speeds and most of the time we don’t get pulled.

          • drax

            True, but that sidesteps the overall problem with quotas.

          • G Clifford Prout

            How many memos must the county publish? They don’t have quotas. They don’t because they say so. And they’re the police.

    • abc123

      +1

  • novasteve

    Thank God we still have money for a $75,000,000 swimming pool though.

    • JimPB

      Don’t thank God, thank the majority of ArlCo voters who approved the bond issue for the aquatic center.

      • drax

        A bond issue authorizes borrowing money. It doesn’t require it. The county could still decide to spend less, or none, on the pool.

        • DCBuff

          Excellent point. Nevertheless, they will borrow and build. And, continue to raise taxes.

          • Brad

            It’s like saying when your parents give you an extra scoop of ice cream they don’t make you eat it.

      • meh…

        I venture that had we KNOWN about a potential budget shortfall of this nature, we likely would have voted differently.

        • drax

          Like I said, it’s not like your vote did anything but authorize borrowing. The county doesn’t have to spend a dime on a pool.

          • flux

            That’s a little naive. The size of the bond initiatives are based on the project budget estimates that they are meant to address. It’s not like they just pull a big round number out of the sky and ask the voters to authorize it before they know where that money would be spent. The bond votes are practically the final step in the project’s development. They would not bother having the referendum if they were not ready to spend the money.

            The ratings agencies would not like that either. They can not keep giving high ratings for bond sales if a jurisdiction just kept accruing unused bond approvals. It would throw their ratings criteria upside down.

            Make no mistake, when bonds are approved by the voters, they are going to get sold.

          • drax

            That’s not the point. The point is that this spending is subject to the same process as any other, plus one extra hoop to go through.

    • Everyone

      Hold on — you promised you were moving away.

  • JoshInBallston

    Does anyone think we should be spending scarce money on a homeless shelter that could instead be allocated to police?

    • Pete B

      Yes. I think it’s more important to spend money sheltering mentally ill and poorest among us, than it is to pay officers to listen to neighborhood cranks at evening civic association meetings.

      • JoshInBallston

        Two issues:

        1) They don’t need to have the shelter in Courthouse blocks from a metro. It could easily be built cheaper in a less expensive area. Moreover, do the *taxpayers* need a year round shelter (that will attract vagrants from DC)? We seem to be getting on just fine now.

        2) Eventually cutting to “one captain, two sergeants, two corporals and eight officers” leaves just thirteen officers for community policing (12 really because the captain’s not out patrolling). Is that really enough to keep our neighborhoods safe?

        • drax

          On #2 – who knows? How many are typically needed for a city of this size and crime rate?

        • Josh S

          You do realize nothing is being “built?” Well, I guess the space it will occupy will need to be remodeled, but this is a purchase of an existing building, of which only a portion will be occupied by the homeless shelter. Any characterization of the deal as simply “building a new homeless shelter” is a gross simplification.

          • JoshInBallston

            They are spending several million dollars to retrofit the building. Separate entrances, etc. Additionally, there are annual operating expenses – money that would be much better spent on restoring police funding.

          • kalashnikev

            They are paying above market rate for an existing building and gutting it to provide a purpose built nest for street people. Do you think they’re going to give them all a cubicle and a phone in that run down place? (would be funny!)

        • Josh S

          Also, did you not read the whole thing? “Community policing” does not generally involve patrolling the streets or responding to 911 calls. Those functions are handled by other parts of the department.

          • kalashnikev

            Wrong. Community Policing is the opposite of ACPDs “behind-the-glass” approach. Who are your local officers, Josh? ACPD- Who are the people in your neighborhood? (Their faces… not how many stickers they have on their car and are they all current and paid to date).

          • drax

            Knowing your local cop is unlikely in a suburban setting, even one that tries to use community policing. The suburbs just make it hard to do that.

          • kalashnikev

            Healthy suburban areas (yes, even right outside of NYC) have relationships and bonds between the citizens and their local police. Arlington does not.

          • drax

            But how many suburban areas have citizens who mostly know their local cop by name?

          • speonjosh

            Kev, dude – yes, we understand your definition of Community Policing. It happens to not correspond with Arlington’s, which is the relevant one for a discussion of how these proposed cuts will affect public safety.

          • kalashnikev

            ACPD does not perform Community Policing. They do revenue enforcement and investigations. They are not proactive in any way.

          • speonjosh

            So we agree that ACPD does not perform Community Policing as you define it. However, they do very much perform Community Policing as they define it.

        • Pete B

          1) I’m curious as to where in Arlington County you think such a location could be found?

          2) Probably, yes.

          • JoshInBallston

            Perhaps on some county owned land off Four Mile Run or down by the water plant. (These were some proposals when they originally wanted to build a year-round one)

            But it definitely should not be blocks from a metro in a place where the vast majority of taxpayers paying for it could not afford to live.

          • speonjosh

            Well, if what they were paying for was a bunk bed in a group house – yes, I think most taxpayers could afford that, even in Courthouse.

          • Pete B

            Proposals from whom? The people in the neighboring condo building? The County Board has been trying to expand the existing shelter and keep it in Courthouse for 20 years. Besides, the shelter only takes up the first two floors; the rest of the building will be county offices. Should the county offices also be located on Four Mile Run, away from all the others?

            http://www.arlingtonva.us/portals/topics/page86014.aspx

            Also, as you may be aware, most taxpayers in Arlington County live in Rosslyn, Courthouse, Clarendon and Ballston. It’s called density.

          • JoshInBallston

            The county might have been able to buy a smaller building than 2020 if not for the shelter. Not to mention the $600k they’re spending to retrofit the building with a separate riffraff entrance.

            And, of course, the decline in property values that will happen. (In fact, I almost bought in the building that’s complaining but decided on Ballston instead because of this.)

          • Pete B

            Might have been able to buy a smaller building? That’s pretty weak soup, Josh. You’re just making things up now.

            If property values decline in nearby condos at all – extremely unlikely – it’ll be because those condo buildings in Courthouse are decades old and new ones have been built elsewhere on the Orange Line, not because of the homeless shelter. There’s been a homeless shelter in CH next to the metro for years, and that doesn’t seem to have prevented the area from becoming what you describe as one in which “the vast majority of taxpayers” cannot afford to live. Yourself excluded, apparently, since you were shopping there.

          • JoshInBallston

            It’s not the complete area; it’s just the condo across the street.

            You’re criticizing my reasons for opposing it – though not the retrofitting costs – but I’m not hearing reasons *for* building it. So, why should Arlington taxpayers pay to build a year-round shelter to begin with? And why should that shelter be in an expensive neighborhood where it will have at least some non-zero impact on property values?

          • Pete B

            1. Because individuals with untreated mental illness, which is very common among the homeless and is in fact the root cause of much homelessness, are a danger to this community. They are best dealt with by comprehensive treatment like the kind this new shelter will provide.

            It needs to be in an accessible location such as courthouse to accomplish this. Homeless people congregate in bustling areas out of necessity, because that is where jobs are, as well as places to sleep, find food, and use the bathroom. The county has to bring the shelter to them.

            2. Because I believe a community like ours, that rates atop in the nation on so many measures of privilege and well-being, has a moral obligation to take care of people who need our help whether we believe it is their fault or not.

          • JoshInBallston

            Or, per #1, the shelter with beds, food, and bathrooms could be in a remote area. This has the dual effects of giving them the services and keeping them out of nice areas. If they insist on hanging out near the metro, there’s no reason a shuttle couldn’t drop them off and pick them up a few times a day. (“All aboard for Riffraff Express”)

            2) We just disagree. I didn’t cause them to be homeless and it’s not my responsibility to care for them. They provide zero value to society – negative in fact from their danger and appearance of blight – so we ought not spend scarce resources sustaining them.

          • Pete B

            One day each of us will need help and won’t deserve it. Maybe when youre 25 or 26 you’ll agree. Adios.

        • Courthouse Diva

          There’s already a year-round shelter right here in Courthouse — across from the subway and in between Jerry’s and Cosi. Prime location.

          • JoshInBallston

            Should be moved to a lower rent place. But at least it’s not close to residential buildings where vagrants will be hanging out near residents.

      • A Simpleton

        Agree with the neighborhood crank part of your post. Regardless of the current budget problems the Board has created, the Police should scale back their time at the non-attended citizens association meetings.

        Isn’t long past the time that these 1910s and 1920s formed organizations faded away into history? We now have better means of communication than the citizens associations. In my neighborhood, a lonely small group of permanent cranks regularly attempt to declare the feelings of the 1000s who live in the neighborhood. I continually wonder if the 10-15 cranks are so delusional that they really believe that they speak for the neighborhood.

        • G Clifford Prout

          They even turn out for our annual condo meetings. It certainly isn’t because of the attendance or the food.

        • drax

          How’s that any different from these comments?

          • bemused bystander

            Civic associations often have coffee and cookies. Here you pour your own.

    • speonjosh

      I’m fairly certain that it’s not a one for one trade-off.

      • JoshInBallston

        No, but money is fungible. A dollar saved in one area can be applied to another.

        • speonjosh

          What I mean is that yes, in theory, one dollar saved here can be moved to there, but that’s not really how it works in practice.

          • kalashnikev

            No. It does.

          • speonjosh

            If you say so, oh learned one.

  • Cletus Van Damme

    I’m still baffled how this county faces a $22 million budget gap. In my opinion, out of all the counties in the United States, Arlington County should never come close to facing a budget gap.

    • drax

      Things change, you know. The economy, property values, tax rates… Nobody can predict the future. Yes, we can see some things coming, and they are, but that’s what they are doing – anticipating a gap, and adjusting.

      • Mike Honcho

        Ummm… One of the wealthiest counties in the US shouldn’t be short $22 million, when the local economy has hardly been impacted.

        • speonjosh

          What does “should” have to do with it?

        • drax

          The local economy has been, and is expected to be, affected.

          Do you think the county simply accidentally planned to spend $22 million more and is not realizing its error? This is due to an expected downturn in revenue, due mainly to the sequester.

          I think we should keep tax rates more steady so we can have a surplus to weather bad times without raising taxes, but I don’t think that’s legal in Virginia.

          • speonjosh

            I’m not sure it’s “due mainly to the sequester.”

            I think up to this point, BRAC has had more of an effect.
            Other than that, your larger point is right on – Arlington’s economy (or more specifically, tax revenues) have been impacted. Does Mike think the board lost the money at the craps table or something?

      • kalashnikev

        I predict tax assessments will continue to rise independent of property values. And the current board will create more budget hemorrhages like Public Pools, Trolleys, Pay Art Galleries, and subsidized housing. It’s not death by 1000 paper cuts- it’s like Fisette is cutting off our right hand while Tejada is cutting off our left leg. This is unsustainable and foolish.

        • drax

          Our property tax rates have gone up and down over the last few decades.

          http://www.arlnow.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/property-tax-graph.jpg

          • Suburban Not Urban

            But never your tax bill

          • drax

            I know, right? It sucks to be building my wealth by simply living in my house as it increases in value. God, I’m just hating that.

        • speonjosh

          Continue?
          Assessments have never been exact. And really, there is no possible way that they could be. I can remember many years leading up to the housing bubble when assessments couldn’t keep up with property values and were absurdly low in some cases.

          Also, your right hand and left leg metaphor may be a *tad* overblown given the small percentage of the total budget represented by $22 million.

          • drax

            And KEV’s not usually one to take a metaphor too far….

    • Mike Honcho

      Don’t forget to feed your meters, and watch your speed. Your now Public Enemy #1

  • Eric

    Why does phase 2 have more officers than phase 1 (1C+1S+1Cor+3off=6 per team=12) versus (1C+2S+2Cor+8Off=13)?

  • A Simpleton

    Am I missing some information? The County has been on a growth spurt for the past twenty years, but the County Board wants to cut the police force?

    • speonjosh

      Apparently.

  • WM

    This is budget situation is really concerning. If we can’t afford what we currently have, how are we aspiring on bigger projects (e.g. swimming pool). The streetcar, well one could argue it will bring economic development to the area (more taxes) and improve the quality of the transportation network (fine). But… the pool, I don’t see how to justify it.

    • Politics

      Politics is how. The Arlington Aquatics Coalition lobbied for a decade and succeeded in getting the county board to take the county $80 million into debt for a really nice pool.

  • Greg

    Wonder if the obtuse County Board will reconsider the Streetcar and Pool in light of this?
    What they’re doing is plain irresponsible.

    • kalashnikev

      It’s Evil. Raising taxes and 5 figure salary increases? How is that even possible???

      • drax

        Maybe they, you know, deserve the raises.

        I’m not saying they do. But you can’t just assume they don’t, and get all outraged about it.

        The taxpayers have to pay for what they get like anyone else. You don’t have to agree with the decisions the Board makes, but reasonable people can disagree. It’s a disagreement, not a scandal.

      • DCBuff

        Kev, it is possible when they have the level of support they get from the ArlCo electorate. Should that ever change (which seems unlikely in the near future), then, as if by magic, they will stop acting on their view that our money is their’s to spend.

        • kalashnikev

          Call it wishful thinking, but I think that the pendulum is about to swing the other way. The level of corruption is just too high and it’s too out-in-the-open.

          • drax

            Plus there are evil-doers and fiends!

          • speonjosh

            Can you be more specific?

        • dm

          It’s hard to believe the electorate would be upset if spending were pulled back.

  • TAC resident

    Well, we could ask the ACPD to stop responding to Crockpot Capers.

    • drax

      Yeah, but that would just make it open season for crockpot chicken thieves.

    • nom de guerre

      Time for a Crock Pot chicken thief roundup!

  • kalashnikev

    We already know that county leadership and ACPD brass are against community engagement. They don’t make any money off of that. Their priorities are completely backward.

  • meh…

    What are ” quality of life issues” ?

  • Guest

    It seems a bit irrational to furlough our first responders while the monopoly guy fights to ding his trolley bell on the way to work.

  • realreformist

    Good; we don’t need police at these functions anyway. During economic crises we are supposed to be cutting back and prioritizing. We cannot afford luxuries such as these so we just need to deal with reality.

  • Guest

    It seems irrational to reduce the capicity of first responders while the monopoly guy fights to ding his trolley bell on the way to work.

  • The Jimmy

    Very hard to understand how Arlington is coming up short on its budget. We keep reading how well the County operates to collect revenue and has a fully understanding on its expenses, but in the end it is short. Lets see…DC ended the fiscal 2012 with a budget surplus of as much as $400 million. How can DC be in a much better situation than Arlington? Makes you wonder????

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