Does Wauwatosa Have Enough Police Officers?
In 2011, Wauwatosa had 1.97 officers for every 1,000 people living in the community. Use this searchable database on Patch to see how this compares with others around the state.
When it comes to how many police officers a community should have, is there a right number?
In a story published in September, Patch pointed out that the FBI – to whom all local and state law enforcement agencies report crime statistics – recommends an average of two officers per 1,000 residents for municipal police departments.
But that is a broad recommendation only. There are no federal or state or even local mandates for how many officers provide optimal protection and service.
In fact, local law officials by and large say there is no such magic number to guide local police departments; rather, each must be staffed to meet its own needs. The International Association of Chiefs of Police in a recent patrol staffing and deployment study stated it plainly:
"Ready-made, universally applicable patrol staffing standards do not exist. Ratios, such as officers-per-thousand population, are totally inappropriate as a basis for staffing decisions."
Instead, the study says needs should be determined by a number of different factors, including:
- Number of calls for service
- Population size, density and composition
- Citizen demands for protective services
- Municipal resources
Patch has created the searchable database tool above to access 2011 police staffing figures for every municipality in Wisconsin. Readers may compare their community to any other. The search tool also allows comparisons to all other cities within a similar population range.
Data is from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's annual Crime in the United States report, which incorporates information reported to the FBI by law enforcement agencies.
As it happened, Wauwatosa's 2011 staffing of 92 sworn officers came out to 1.97 per 1,000 residents – a statistically insignificant fraction off the FBI "ideal." In the 2013 budget, the Wauwatosa Police Department accepted a reduction by two positions to staff our city of 46,600 people.
By contrast, Caledonia, just outside Racine, had a 2011 officer-to-citizen ratio of just 1.17 to 1,000 for a population of about 25,000, served by 29 officers, and the Caledonia police chief was seeking funding to hire three new officers.
Brookfield, with just over 38,000 people, had 81 officers for a ratio of 1.68 per 1,000 residents, slightly lower than Wauwatosa's. But Brookfield had a violent crime rate during the same period that was less than half Wauwatosa's.
Meanwhile, West Allis, with 130 sworn officers serving just over 60,000 people, had an officer-to-resident ratio of 2.14 per 1,000, but it had a violent crime rate more than half again as high as Wauwatosa's.
Glendale, with a population of only 13,000, employed 43 officers – 14 more than Caledonia, which is almost twice its size – for a ratio of 3.33 officers to every 1,000 residents.
So, the answer to the headline question is: "It depends." Another measure police departments and the FBI use to measure success and efficiency is the crime "closure rate" – the number of cases that are solved or explained, hence, "case closed."
Wauwatosa's closure rate is higher than the state and national averages, according to the Police Department.