Efficient use of taxpayer dollars is of primary concern for many jurisdictions and public safety agencies. Billings, Montana, a full-service City in the Southern portion of the state along the Yellowstone River, is no exception. That’s why the City leadership, including the Billings Police Department, keeps close tabs on agency spending, and why they decided to conduct a third party assessment of their operations last year.
While the City had been dealing with an increase in crime due to COVID-19, they also had seen a steadily growing population and have felt the strain on their officers. CPSM’s Police Operations and Data Analysis Report presented a way to deep dive into the data to find solutions that best served the department, its officers, and the community.
“It was important to us to make sure that we were being efficient with our resources so that we could solve for resident concerns while maintaining our expected levels of service across the City,” says Kevin Iffland, Assistant City Administrator. “We felt that we were understaffed and wanted to hire more officers, but needed to leave no stone unturned in making sure we were using the resources we did have as effectively as possible first.”
CPSM’s Wayne Hiltz led the team in conducting the assessment. The process included data collection and analytics for statistics like officer response time and number of hours spent per task or assignment, on site interviews with all levels of department staff, and a close look at the current budget and spending. The result was an easy-to-digest yet detailed 210-page report that detailed the department’s current operations, and made suggestions on where the department could adjust to best serve the community.
One recommendation that jumped out in particular to the City was the suggestion that Billings add a number of community service officers to the department. These non-sworn officers could handle tasks such as taking reports, directing traffic, monitoring jail calls, and other jobs that are necessary but can take police officers away from crime prevention and emergency response tasks. Iffland, who was a member of the Billings Police Department early in his career, remembers having non sworn officers on the force then.
“It’s a full-circle moment and very good suggestion that makes sense for efficiency purposes – it frees up our officers for the important safety jobs and saves us budget, which is exactly the kind of solutions we were hoping to find.”
While the report was only delivered to Billings’ administration a few months ago, they immediately set to work on implementing some of the changes that were outlined and estimate that they have set processes in motion for at least half of the recommendations. The department is also keeping up with data collection in order to do some internal check-ins down the road to see how the switches impacted the department overall.
“Overall the Billings PD, myself, and our City Council were very pleased with the knowledge gained from the report and the process of working with CPSM’s team,” says Iffland. “The report itself was laid out in a way that was easy to digest, even for non-police officers, and it got right to the recommendations up front. Overall, it’s been tremendously helpful in setting changes in motion within the department and helping us make sure we are spending our resident’s dollars as best we can.”