Though city departments that promote safety have not been safe from statewide budget cuts, there may be a way to save money without cutting crucial services. In line with Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s plan to cut down Michigan’s spending, the Pontiac Police Department became a part of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office last August. The overall positive results of the consolidation indicate that the change, especially in areas with a high crime rate, may increase departmental efficiency while also reducing Michigan’s heavy financial burden.
Though the decision to close the Pontiac Police Department may have shifted the department’s workforce, the move has saved an estimated $2.2 million in state money. By combining the expenses into one department, the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office was able to hire 73 additional officers, many of whom worked for or were previously laid off by the former Pontiac Police Department.
The consolidation was initially planned as a cost-saving measure, but the decision has resulted in more action that targets crime. Pontiac has seen a 400-percent increase in arrests in the first four months following the decision, according to a Detroit Free Press article, which shows that the change has not affected the ability of safety officials to do their jobs.
While property crime has decreased in Pontiac over the past several years, violent crime is still on the rise. The city’s violent crime rate is drastically higher than the national average. The hiring of the additional officers was only possible because of the money saved through the consolidation and was an important factor in the 400-percent increase in arrests. Though this method may not work in every jurisdiction, the numbers show that the change has been particularly effective in Pontiac.
Ann Arbor has recently suffered cuts to the fire and police department budgets that have resulted in a reduction of the number of personnel these departments can employ. Looking into a potential consolidation of the two organizations could prove cost-effective and beneficial for the city.
Snyder has long favored consolidations like the one seen in Pontiac. The proven success of the consolidation has stirred debates in other areas of Michigan as to whether services traditionally offered by cities should be expanded into countywide jurisdictions. The push for countywide consolidation of services allows for greater oversight and standardization of worker compensation that the current system lacks.
Regions in other states have discussed the combination of police and fire departments into a larger department that would cross-train employees to respond to both fire and public safety emergencies. Still others have suggested combining non-safety departments such as parks and recreation and water and sewage.
Opponents of these measures are concerned that this would result in a public workforce that has many skills, but fails to be experts in one specific task. Regardless of whether these policies are implemented, discussing different options is crucial for arriving at a decision that would be beneficial to Michigan’s economy and the safety of residents.
While more research is necessary to determine which services and regions would gain the greatest benefit from consolidations like the Pontiac-Oakland move, the increase in arrests and the money saved by Pontiac shows that these measures are a viable option to save the state money without compromising public safety.