How Much Has Detroit’s Police Force Been Cut? No One Knows

Published August 8, 2013

Soon after the city of Detroit filed for bankruptcy, many blogs and news sites began running “facts” about the city. One common “fact” repeated often was that “the size of the police force in Detroit has been cut by about 40 percent over the past decade.”

Although it makes for interesting reading, just how much the police department has been cut is not that simple to determine and is another example of the city’s dysfunction.

Numerous Numbers

For example, the city’s 2003 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report states there were 4,810 uniform police officers that year. However, the city’s 2012 CAFR lists the city as having 3,981 uniform police officers in 2003 and then two pages later has the city with 3,965 uniform police officers in 2003.

And the confusion is more than just an accounting hiccup.

The city’s Emergency Manager Review Team report stated that regarding police operations, “operational dysfunction contributes to the city’s serious financial problem.”

‘No Reliable Information’
The emergency manager’s report found that the city’s police department had about 2,030 employees in 2012. However, city officials and police department officials couldn’t agree to just what those 2,030 employees did. City officials stated that only 33 percent of the police department’s employees were involved in patrolling the city. The rest were involved in “ancillary administrative functions” such as payroll.

Police department officials claimed that 68 percent of its workforce was involved in patrol work and another 15 percent were involved in investigations.

“The Review Team could not resolve this discrepancy because the City’s administration had no reliable information concerning what staffing levels are, or should be, within the Police Department,” the report stated.

Basic Questions

James Hohman, a fiscal policy analyst for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said the city of Detroit has had problems getting the most basic pieces of information accurate.

“They’ve been unable to answer the basic questions about what they are doing and how much it costs,” Hohman said.

Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr is making progress, Hohman said.

“Orr is getting a handle on fixing these problems and his plan is encouraging,” Hohman said. “They are closer to having a functional government now than they have been in the past decade.”

For the record, the 2012 CAFR has the city with 2,708 uniformed police officers.

Bill Nowling, Orr’s spokesman, said improving public safety is a top priority for the emergency manager and that new Police Chief James Craig is “working to provide honest and realistic crime stats and force deployment figures.”

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