The Bottom Line

The business of policing has nothing to do with turning a financial profit.  I know some people believe that police departments go on raging ticket writing campaigns to ‘make more money’, but even in cases where some of the fees for tickets are returned to an agency, the amount of money that comes back is really insignificant in the big picture.  The same goes for fees that are collected for copies of police reports, accident reports, and fingerprint cards; it is tiny compared to the budget needs of a department.  Licensing and registration services are usually the same, they simply cover the costs of the operation.

In a typical business, money is handy in measuring whether or not the organization is successful or not.  Money alone is the basis for countless metrics and analysis tools.  The challenge for policing starts with identifying what is being ‘sold’, where the ‘profit’ can be found, and measuring the outcome of the effort.

And this is where we find the rub.

Businesses either sink or swim in the pursuit of sustainability and success; make money and live on, lose money and die.  But if money is not the objective, what drives an organization to perform exceptionally?  If the organization, and for that matter the industry, will live on regardless of success or failure, which is the case for policing, what is the motivation for doing business better? Worse than that, what if the same organization has zero competition to consider?

Outlandish?  Not hardly; stories of atrocious behavior in government services are not made up (think of the last line you stood in or waited for a response to a request you had) and the same issues find their way to police departments as well.

In the end, the police organization has to desire to be successful.  That sounds simple, but it is actually very complex and extremely difficult to sustain. Somehow, the department has to find a sense of accountability, similar to the sweat that a CEO or board of directors experiences, knowing that the stakeholders have expectations that must be met.

In lieu of a financial bottom line, a policy agency deals with a tougher bottom line that consists of a combination of public approval, confidence and reputation.

 Imagine, living in a community where the police department is a respected and valued as some of your favorite companies and businesses.  You receive a great deal of value for the taxes you pay, the level of customer service is exceptional, and the department is always responsive the community’s (customer’s) needs. – PBA

 © 2014 David A. Lyons
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