In the United States, decentralized police are responsible for dealing with violations and making peace in their jurisdictions according to their states’ legislation. Departments have diverse structures, and, depending on specific needs in staffing or as a response to certain circumstances, services can be a contract, consolidated, and civilianized. Each type has the benefits necessary to improve law enforcement and the sector’s employees’ conditions or optimize the governments’ spending (Weisburst, 2022). This paper aims to discuss the advantages and limitations of contract, consolidated, and civilianized police services and explore if similar structures are used in other areas of the criminal justice system.
Contract Police Services
Contract police services use the contractual agreement as the main strategy to hire professionals and enable them to provide law enforcement in the area tied to a department. Contracting becomes a solution when a town has no independent law enforcement services, and the major centralized department provides them with the educated and equipped employees to fill the gap (Gruenewald et al., 2019). An example of contract police services prevalence is the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), where most employees are hired from government-based security organizations (Zeemering, 2019). The contract conditions allow hiring officers according to specific needs or sending them to certain locations for a temporary mission accomplishing. Similar strategies are relevant in other criminal justice systems, such as courts where additional specialists, lawyers, or criminalists are contracted for certain cases.
Contract police services have benefits and disadvantages related to the sources used and the type of operations they can provide. A major positive aspect is that the financing required to work with the contractual agreement is lower than establishing independent law enforcement facilities. Indeed, supervision, equipment, vehicles, and personnel training are included in the costs; thus, they eliminate the need for additional purchases and consequent taxes (Gruenewald et al., 2019). Another benefit of contracting police services is that they can temporarily be integrated into a local department to resolve specific issues instead of keeping employees whose work is only needed seasonally. For instance, animal control officers might only be required in summer when wild species are active, and ‘outsourcing’ such employees are cost-efficient. A significant disadvantage of contract police services is that local communities have specific issues and cultural or identical differences that officers might fail to recognize and address (Gruenewald et al., 2019). Moreover, law enforcement from an external agency can lead to decreased competition and the willingness of inhabitants to improve their lives in diverse aspects, including safety (Weisburst, 2022). Lastly, long-lasting contracts are challenging to terminate or update if the coordination is failed to fulfill the conditions.
Consolidated Police Services
Consolidated police services are based on merging diverse organizations to improve and optimize law enforcement operations in a selected jurisdiction. An example of such a structure is the Rockford (Michigan) Department of Public Safety, where police and fire departments united in 2012 to enhance their practices and share recourses to become more efficient. The decision allowed the state’s government to decrease the taxpayers’ spending on security and helped fill the workforce gaps (Clark-Moorman et al., 2019). Services’ consolidation appears in all criminal justice systems where competent professionals merge their forces to improve public safety or make proper correction-related decisions. For instance, federal jails’ representatives collaborate with local subsidiaries in specific cases, or small jurisdictions’ courts’ representatives unite with the greater ones to lead complicated issues.
The advantage of consolidated police services is the optimized utilization of equipment, resources, and staffing, resulting in better supervision and higher flexibility necessary during emergencies. The structure is beneficial for jurisdictions where multiple small areas have agencies that could win from collaborating with the major city’s department (Chermak & Wilson, 2020). Building a consolidated police system has a significant financial advantage because it decreases the number of equipment and vehicles necessary to buy and allows taxpayers to avoid doubled payments for public safety. The main drawback of consolidated police services is similar to the contracted one – challenges in addressing specific needs of local communities and the lack of understanding of their identities (Chermak & Wilson, 2020). Furthermore, sharing services can result in corrupt schemes between subsidiaries and the main department, causing underperformance and inequality of labor conditions.
Civilianized Police Services
Civilianized police services allow individuals without specific education to participate in public safety improvement in their jurisdiction. Although the practice is not popular in large states or well-developed cities, civil help becomes necessary during emergencies (Kang, 2019). For example, towns that depended on the small departments and sheriff’s activities could lack safety services during the COVID-19 pandemic, enabling the inhabitants to take the duties and assist in hiring temporarily. The correction part of the justice system uses civilianized strategies by involving social workers and volunteers to achieve better results.
The advantage of civilianized police services is that there is no specific regulation or limit on people involved; thus, critical situations can be resolved efficiently. However, the lack of legislation is a drawback because assigning responsibilities and setting salaries for the completed work (Kang, 2019). Furthermore, a major disadvantage that can cause serious problems is the lack of training and appropriate health conditions among civilianized police services providers.
The three types of police services emerged and developed in the United States’ criminal justice systems to optimize public safety costs and build strong organizations to address the jurisdictions’ specific issues. The contracted and consolidated structures allow the police-related employees and companies to collaborate or assist each other in delivering safety, and the civilianized one is beneficial when inhabitants’ involvement is necessary. As the police are decentralized, diversification of services’ delivery is essential to maintain efficiency regardless of circumstances.
Chermak, S., & Wilson, J. M. (2020). Attitudes toward the police in communities using different consolidation models. International Criminal Justice Review, 30(2), 219-234.
Clark-Moorman, K., Rydberg, J., & McGarrell, E. F. (2019). Impact evaluation of a parolee-based focused deterrence program on community-level violence. Criminal Justice Policy Review, 30(9), 1408-1430.
Gruenewald, J., Wilson, J. M., & Grammich, C. A. (2018). Examining officer support for and perceived effects of police consolidation. Policing: An International Journal, 41(6), 828-843.
Kang, S. C. (2019). Volunteer involvement and organizational performance: The use of volunteer officers in public safety. Public Performance & Management Review, 42(3), 554-579.
Weisburst, E. K. (2022). “Whose help is on the way?” The importance of individual police officers in law enforcement outcomes. Journal of Human Resources, 0720-11019R2.
Zeemering, E. S. (2019). Do interlocal contracts seek collaborative efficiency? An investigation of police service delivery in California cities. Public Management Review, 21(7), 968-987.