Leadership Spotlight

Doing More with Less? 

Stock graphic representing a downward flow of cash.

As the nation and, certainly, law enforcement and public safety agencies around the world face the continual demands to cut and reduce budgets, the phrase “Doing more with less” has become the new mantra. Is it really possible to do more with less? General James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), said it best: “We will not be doing more with less, we will simply have less capability.” 

These are difficult times. The demands placed upon our agencies by the federal budget may be unprecedented. Federal government sequestration, furloughs, and staffing and program cuts very well may be the most serious and severe in our lifetime. Can we really do more with less? 

Police executives should consider whether this is a crisis—or an opportunity. I offer that this may be an opportunity to examine how we can police more intelligently, efficiently, and effectively. Police Chief Gary Gemme of the Worcester, Massachusetts, Police Department said in response to facing budget cuts, “I believe that in the current financial predicament there is an opportunity to innovate, reorganize, and change the culture in departments to better deal with the new financial reality facing policing.” 

This is the leadership challenge for the 21st century. Simply stated, we must challenge our paradigms. It is time to examine our policing strategies regarding how we deliver police services to the public. Is your agency using a data-driven approach to policing through maximization of your records management systems and analytical capability? Have you explored a Comstat-like policing strategy to enhance supervisor accountability in your geographical patrol areas? According to Debra Piehl, a recognized expert and frequent speaker at the FBI National Academy at Quantico, Virginia, on data-driven and predictive-policing strategies, “If you are not using data to deploy personnel in ‘hot spots’ to reduce crime and traffic accidents, you can be assured your community thinks that you are.” 

If we are going to look at these challenging financial times as an opportunity, we must reexamine all of our policing processes. Should we consider online Internet reporting of minor crimes and traffic accidents? Are we using technology to enhance our operations? Is it time to reach out to the community to build a volunteer program? Is verified response feasible for your agency? Civilianization, outsourcing, privatization, regionalization, business partnerships and foundations, and an emphasis on sharing services represent the new thinking required in today’s policing. As the saying goes, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you always got.” It no longer is business as usual, but time for creative thinking to forge new ideas and solutions.

Be sure to involve and ask your personnel at all levels of your organization, “How can we do this faster, smarter, cheaper, and more efficiently?” The answers might surprise you.

Special Agent Michael McAuliffe, an instructor in the Faculty Affairs and Development Unit at the FBI Academy, prepared this Leadership Spotlight.