Free Webinar Helps Cities Facing Public Safety Budget Cuts

Experts from the Center for Public Safety Management (CPSM) recently held a free webinar for local government officials facing significant revenue shortfalls as a consequence of COVID-19.

Presenters included:

Wieczorek welcomed attendees, noting that “since March, we’ve seen a complete change in the municipal world; it’s been turned upside down.”

He described the severe revenue and budgeting challenges facing many municipalities, noting that staff layoffs have already begun in many parts of the country.

According to Wieczorek, elected officials, managers and staff face extremely difficult decisions, especially given that a majority of many municipal budgets is dedicated to public safety services.

“Is now the time to reset and really take a detailed look at how we deliver those services?” he asked. “Where are we going to have to cut, and if we do so, where can we do the most effective, efficient and safe changes to services? The key is data.”

Wieczorek described available CPSM services, which include:

  • Forensic analysis of data to determine workload and tasks
  • Strategic planning
  • Operational analysis for dispatch, police, fire, and emergency medical services (EMS)
  • Police Chief Selection
  • Standard of Response
  • Risk Assessments
  • Ongoing data assessment to monitor staffing demand

Dr. Dov Chelst focused his remarks on the importance of using data in analyzing police, fire and EMS services.

He shared that while public safety departments are immersed with data, many still rely on faulty intuitions in decision making.

“Whenever possible you should measure rather than relying on estimates,” Chelst said. “If you’re making decisions without data, those decisions may be based on intuition.”

According to Chelst, tips for improving data quality include connecting data sources to avoid data entry errors, good software and training, standardized data entry practices, and regular checks for compliance.

Panelist Matt Zavadsky serves as chief strategic integration officer for MedStar Mobile Healthcare. He outlined evidence-based metrics to measure the performance and efficiency of an EMS system, including clinical excellence, operational effectiveness, financial efficiency, and patient focus.

“Analyzing your cost for providing ambulance service in your community is going to become very, very important,” Zavadsky said.

“As we go into this new budget cycle … you need to determine if your system is delivering value. Can you … implement change that will decrease cost, increase quality, increase effectiveness, and maybe even increase revenue generation from your EMS system?”

Chief Jackie Gomez-Whiteley focused her remarks on best practices for operational assessments of law enforcement agencies. She provided a helpful overview of the process CPSM uses, including document requests, site visits, and focus groups with key personnel and community members.

During this process, CPSM takes a close look at agency documents and data to see if policies and practice align.

“Oftentimes we find that there are some good policies out there, but from a practical standpoint for one reason or another – whether it be training or oversight – they may not be consistently followed,” Gomez-Whiteley said.

During the Great Recession, CPSM helped local governments across North America identify cost savings and efficiency improvements in police, fire, and emergency services, while at the same time protecting and often improving the quality of services provided. The valuable lessons learned could prove a lifeline for local communities in the weeks, months and years ahead.

As an ICMA Presidential Level Strategic Partner, the Center for Public Safety Management, LLC, is ICMA’s exclusive provider of local government public safety consulting and technical services.

In case you missed it, a video of the webinar is available. Watch it here.

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