Privatizing police functions could save cities like NYC hundreds of millions to focus on crime
According to a new study, the NYPD and other urban police departments could save hundreds of millions of dollars by contracting out « non-essential » services to private companies and having their officers focus almost exclusively on crime control and prevention.
The Montreal Economic Institute’s « Improving Public Safety While Saving Public Dollars with Auxiliary Private Security Officers » analysis noted that traffic control and minor accidents consume 13% to 19% of the time from an agent.
“Having 75% of traffic management tasks performed by trained private officers has the potential to save law enforcement agencies tremendous time and money,” the study says.
Outsourcing 75% of sobriety checkpoints to trained private employees or auxiliary police — excluding arrests — could save millions of dollars, the report said.
In addition, tasks such as escorting, follow-up witness interviews, preparation of affidavits and warrants, and data collection could be performed by civilians, according to the report.
The study estimated $35.3 million in savings for Miami-Dade PD in Florida, $22 million for Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and $177.4 million for Los Angeles PD over a period of 15 years old.
The NYPD was not covered by the study. But researchers estimated for The Post that New York’s Finest could save up to $415 million over time by privatizing administrative and traffic control functions.
“Although New York has recently passed a number of reforms, more can and should be done. It is time to restore the balance between essential and non-essential policing. By doing so, we can make our communities safer, preserve public resources, and increase job satisfaction for police officers,” said Krystie Wittevrongel, lead researcher on the study.
“More time spent on policing would do wonders for public safety, especially since the NYPD is the largest police department in the country,” she said.
The NYPD had no immediate comment.
But the NYC Police Benevolent Association criticized the privatization plan as playing into the game of « funding the police movement ».
« This proposal is nothing more than private security contractors trying to cash in on the ‘Defund the Police’ movement. Stopping a drunk or intoxicated driver is a core duty of the police – you are depriving a person of his freedom to save the lives of others,” said city PBA President Patrick Lynch.
“It requires training, judgment and responsibility. Do we really want our safety and freedom in the hands of the lowest bidder? Public safety must remain a public good and not a source of profit.
The report acknowledged that officers would still make DWI arrests.
« While there is a need for sworn officers with the power to arrest at sobriety checkpoints, there are also tasks that do not need to be performed by these officers, such as performing initial checks, running breathalyzers and managing traffic, » the study said.
There has been an ongoing debate about removing certain social obligations from the hands of the NYPD that don’t just involve fighting crime.
Mayor Eric Adams announced in February new social service teams to reach homeless and mentally ill people on the subway and persuade them to take shelter and connect them to services, instead of just relying on the police.
Meanwhile, the NYPD oversees school safety officers in public schools. There is a tug of war from education activists to strip the NYPD of this function and have the officers run by the Department of Education.
Labor attorney Arthur Schwartz said the NYPD already uses civilians to perform certain functions, such as traffic cops who issue parking tickets and direct traffic, and who earn considerably less than cops. He was a legal consultant to one of the unions representing traffic officers.
He said he saw no reason why civilians couldn’t handle the sobriety checkpoints.
But Schwartz argued that workers performing such duties should be municipal government employees with public service and union protections — not non-union workers employed by private contractors.