Funds are required for many institutions to continue their day-to-day operations. Through the financial departments, the administration of the institution creates a budget that is supposed to allow the institution to run until the next budget is released. The budgeting process is not an easy task since it involves speculating all the costs that the institution is likely to incur in the course of the budgeted period. Depending on the institution, the level of complexity of the budgeting process varies. One of the institutions with the greatest level of complexity, when it comes to the budgeting process, is the police department since this process involves the speculation on how the department will spend money until the next budget. Furthermore, various expenses can come up along the way, for example, if many police vehicles are destroyed and new ones need to be purchased. Various scholars have undertaken the role to study the budgeting process of the police department and have ended up coming with a few guidelines that would aid the police chiefs in developing a sound police budget. This paper looks at how police chiefs declare their budgets.
In most countries, especially in the United States, the budget funding of the police department falls in the hands of the municipal council or the local government. Therefore, the police department has to compete for funding with other agencies under the municipal administration. However, in this competition, the police department has the advantage since the police protect the affairs of the citizens. Despite having this competitive advantage, some police departments are usually not successful in acquiring funding from their state or municipal funding bodies. Thus, all comes down to how the police chiefs of the affected departments go around the budgeting process. Therefore, the chiefs must proceed with the budgeting process in a subtle way to ensure that they receive funding.
Police chiefs have various responsibilities in the criminal justice system. The first role played by the police chiefs is a managerial role, where they ensure that the police department is managed appropriately for the citizens to receive any justice they deserve from the force in form of preventing crime or looking for the criminals who have committed various crimes. Good management of police departments ensures that the law enforcers act accordingly and effectively. There is no room for mistakes. Another role played by the police chiefs in contributing to criminal justice is budgeting. Police chiefs are required to create the budget necessary for the smooth running of their departments as without budgeting, the departments cannot continue their work. Therefore, police chiefs play a critical role in criminal justice by providing the correct budget, under which the division runs.
For the police chiefs, budgetary success can be achieved in one of two ways: maintaining a good working relationship with the budgeting body, which is mainly the local government or the state, and either being successful in making the budget of the previous year extensive or, in cases of budget cuts, having the right defense against base cuts.
To ensure that the budget that they have is appropriately funded, various strategies are employed by these police chiefs. The ways to make sure a successful funding is received include using crime and workload of data to ensure that they receive the funding. Furthermore, some police chiefs use sensational crimes to get budgetary funding from the budgeting authority. They mobilize various stakeholders and make a strategic plan on how to acquire the funds. Police chiefs can also carefully participate in state grant process or even involve all departmental heads in the budgeting process. This ensures that the police chiefs have a successful bid in receiving the necessary funding for their departments.
One of the ways used by police chiefs to get funding is to maintain a good relationship with the budgeting body. Therefore, the police chiefs have to develop such a relationship with the board members of the budgeting committees and the governing body in the municipal council. Sometimes, these relationships are customized according to a particular holder of the office (Police Executive Research Forum, 2002). These chiefs have to make sure that whenever these budgeting committees and funding managers call, they have to respond quickly and effectively.
When it comes to using crime and workload to receive funding, the police chiefs resort to using various tools to measure the performance of their departments. This includes such departments as investigations, patrol, crime prevention, and drug control among others. Increased workload and effective performance ensure that the police chiefs receive increased funding from the budgeting committee. Police chiefs also use crimes that might have brought a sensation to the eyes of the budgeting committee and the public in general as a platform for higher funding. As stated by Police Executive Research Forum (2002), certain critical incidents, for example, cases where law-enforcement officers have been killed in action can be triggers to ‘massive infusion of resources’ even if the economic conditions, the public ideology, or even the political considerations do not allow an increase of funds to the respective police chiefs.
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Further, the agencies that are supposed to handle financing of the police departments can mobilize groups that are interested in the police force to be able to achieve better funding for police officers. This can be done in the form of various aids or even institutions that have an interest the police force. These government agencies can continue to form issue networks with the said clientele or even iron triangles. An iron triangle is a tight relationship between the legislative committee, the police chiefs whom they oversee, and the interested group; while an issue network is a loose relationship between the legislative committee and the chiefs with the interested groups. These groups can also include businesses concerned about crime rates, neighborhood groups, or even civic societies. They develop ties with the police force and the legislative committees to ensure that the police force continues to fight crime effectively. These groups provide all the help that they can regarding funding to the police force. Since the various departments of the police are so visible by the public, the police chiefs garner support from the public, and this can translate into additional funding.
Another way, using which the police chiefs can be guaranteed additional funds in the declaration of their budgets, is planning strategically. By using strategic planning, the police chiefs can do an analysis of the policy alternatives that are present in the budgeting process. This is aimed at providing an emphasis the implications of the decisions that they make in the current day. It should be noted that this is a good management process and it portrays a statement of long-term goals and objectives. Therefore, the police chiefs can make sound operating budget policy decisions. This would remove any thought from the budgeting committee that the budget was made without any strategic decision whatsoever.
In addition to strategic planning, police chiefs can also be participants of Federal grants in the cases where the local government or municipal council funds the budget of the police chiefs. The chiefs can participate in grants by various government agencies, business people, or even foundations. One of the main investments by the police chiefs is technology. Although technology improves the efficiency and effectiveness of the police force, it is also expensive. Additional funds from these grants can be used for technological advancement in the police departments. All these strategies employed by the police chiefs can ensure the success in acquiring of new sources of funds.
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The department budget that the police chiefs declare is made up of several sections, including the forecasting of operating expenditures, capital budget, and the personnel services budget. To ensure that they declare the correct budget, the police chiefs should make sure that all these sections of the budget are accurate. The largest portion of the main budget is the personnel services budget that consists of about 75%-80% of the total budget. For example, the personnel services budget for the Seattle police department in 2014 accounted for 85% of the overall budget (Pugel, 2014). This budget is used to pay the wages of those in the police force. Providing the accurate personnel services’ budget is the first step to securing additional funds during the budget declaration. Having too few members of the staff means that the chief will not be able to actualize their objectives or set mission. However, having too many staff members presupposes that some pressure will be felt in the overall budget. Therefore, police chiefs need to balance this budget in order to achieve his/her objectives without putting pressure on the overall budget. Apart from reviewing balancing the members of staff and before declaring their budgets, the police chiefs should create allowances for sick leaves. According to Chief Orrick (2003), covering the positions by the staff who call in sick can cost the department up to about 250% of the budgeted amount for this cause because anyone who calls in sick still gets paid, and those who fill in for them also get paid.
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Another part that the police chiefs should consider before declaring their budget is the capital budget. This budget allows the department to plan for its long run activities such as the purchase of items that are considered expensive by the department. This includes various services such as the renovation of the departmental offices or even the purchase of departmental vehicles. The reason why this budget needs to be scrutinized accurately is that the risk of making errors during its calculation is too high. In this budget, the purchase of assets, their replacement, or even improvement is scheduled to ensure that there is order during the replacement of these assets and that the pitfalls that might occur if there is no order are avoided (Stuart, 2005). This also ensures that no annual budget is pressured in that the cost of the assets is spread over some years. To be able to get additional funds for this budget, the chiefs must be able to make their case on why they need more funds. The first step is to show how the purchase can help the department save or make money. An example is the purchasing of a Report Management System, in which a police chief can justify its purchase by saying that with the automatic the reporting process, there is less paperwork; hence, the officers can record reports quickly and can return to the field faster. Safety can also be another justification of procuring additional funds for this budget. By showing how improving or purchasing assets can improve the safety of the community or even the police officers, the police chiefs can make sure the budget can go through. The capital budget is an important area of the main budget, and decisions should be made very carefully.
The last part of the main budget that should be studied before declaring the department budget is the short-term budget, or the forecasting operating expenditure. On this budget, the departments operate each day. It includes things like stationery, fuel, ammunition, and uniforms. To develop a good estimation of this budget, the police chiefs should use that year’s fiscal budget as the baseline. Next, they should check on any changes that the departments might make to have the necessary adjustments to this budget. From here, the chief can make the accurate operating budget. Thus, it is an important part of the main budget since it makes up the daily operations of the department.
The police chiefs must operate correctly in accordance with the budget, which means that the department is not seen to be less effective. If the police chiefs operate within the budget, the whole department works smoothly and successfully. If the chiefs do not operate as per the budget, the department fails. Therefore, it is critical for the police chiefs to follow the budget closely to avoid having cost overruns in the end of the budgeted time.
In conclusion, the police chiefs have some problems when it comes to creating the budget required by their departments. To be able to get additional funds for their budget, several strategies have to be employed by the police chiefs. However, before the declaration of the main budget, the police chiefs need to look at what makes up that budget, including the operating budget, the capital budget, and the personnel services budget. The chiefs who employ correct strategies are allowed to announce their budget and get the necessary funds unlike those whose strategies are not successful.