Proposed 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
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.
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.
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:
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.