The traditional image of frontline policing has been part of our culture for at least a hundred years and in the light of growing budgets and the resulting higher property taxes, a major rethink is overdue.
I think it is time to fundamentally rethink how policing is delivered and the level of service we can provide with the tax revenue available.
We cannot continue to be all things to all people.
If that means withdrawing from certain areas of service delivery than so be it – other areas of society will have to pick up the slack as necessary.
It’s not what any of us want to see, but a dose of realism is required. Failure to address this issue leaves us spreading the thin blue line even thinner and asking fewer people to do even more.
The police force is the agency of last resort. They deal with people who have mental health problems, community planning issues, and they provide policing in schools – whole areas where the police undertake a wider civic responsibility as noone else does.
To be fair to the police, they are trying to deliver services at a level people are used to but we need to be honest and say we can’t do this anymore, we just don’t have the revenue source. Already, police chiefs across the state – ours included – have begun to re-evaluate how police should respond to addiction-related calls. This is just the beginning.
Tough decisions on police finances have not been prioritized by previous administrators and councils – they have stored up problems for the people coming in after them because they didn’t concentrate on the long term. To be fair to them, state officials have hamstrung local governments with an unfair and unsustainable tax structure.
In order for future police departments to provide a high standard of service which delivers effective policing, we need to step forward and offer that leadership.
This year’s 2016-17 Keene city budget will be the last staff-generated budget, as the city council begins a new council goals process. Instead of staff building a budget and hoisting it onto the council near the end of the fiscal year, councilors will work closely with staff to develop the next budget from the beginning based on goals identified in July.
This is a new beginning for us and an invaluable tool to address future challenges that the citizens of Keene expect and deserve.