Kansas City Councilman Scott Wagner was “shocked” when he found out the Police Department’s human resources operation was the same size as the city’s.
The city has twice as many employees.
But that disparity was just one example from a report that tallied $38 million in similar administrative functions between the city and the Police Department.
Cutting out just some of the overlap, the report suggests, could save taxpayers millions.
Or, in a time of increasing urban violence, Wagner said, the department could perhaps add officers and increase neighborhood patrols.
As the Police Department’s budget for the first time tops more than a quarter of a billion dollars, Wagner, the city manager and others say the report should spur a closer look at how the city and Police Department can operate more efficiently and wisely.
“People want to see officers on the street,” said Wagner, the council’s finance chairman. He pointed out that many police employees work instead on communications, finance, facilities, fleet, information technology and human resources.
The city’s budget office quietly released its consolidation analysis of administrative services a month ago. But like similar reports in past years, this one was shelved and went nowhere. The City Council then adopted a new budget without factoring in any of those potential savings.
Police officials note that all those functions still need to be performed, so they don’t concede that it should lead to staff cuts. Consolidation, they argue, is more complicated than the analysis recognizes.
But Wagner said he plans to pursue this topic in the coming months, as the budget for police tops $250 million, or 44 percent of the general fund.
The budget office report found 499 full-time employees in both the city and police do similar administrative duties. Just cutting 5 percent of those positions would save nearly $2 million, and cutting 10 percent would save $3.8 million.
Among the findings:
▪ The Police Department’s human resources division has 30 full-time equivalent positions (nine law enforcement and 21 civilian), while the city’s human resources division also has 30 handling like functions, even though the police HR department serves 2,000 employees and the city HR serves 4,300.
▪ The Police Department’s building maintenance division has 33 positions, while the city’s facility management division has 29, even though the city maintains both police and city buildings.
▪ The police information services division has 38 positions, while the city has 35.
Budget Officer Scott Huizenga said his office isn’t pushing for layoffs. But it advocates looking for duplication areas that could be handled better.
“This isn’t a gotcha thing,” Huizenga said. “It’s just a matter of, this is what’s available. I think both sides acknowledge that there are opportunities available.”
A big reason the Police Department has all these same functions is that it is not a city department. In a setup unique in the country, it is a state agency that operates separately from the city, with a state-appointed oversight board. The police say these civilian functions still need to occur.
City Manager Troy Schulte acknowledged the city has compared staffing numbers in prior years, without achieving much consolidation progress. But an even more important reason to reduce administrative costs, he said, is public safety.
“I think,” he said, “it would let us make sure we’ve got adequate staffing in the department on the patrol side.”
Schulte did credit Police Chief Darryl Forté with being more willing to discuss specific consolidations than past chiefs. For example, information technology is one area where the police and the city have a productive consolidation initiative that could save millions of dollars in future years.
Forté could not be reached for comment and has announced he is retiring May 20. The search is on for a new chief.
Capt. Stacey Graves, spokeswoman for the Police Department, said the police don’t disagree with the city’s numbers, but there’s a lot more than numbers to consider. Still, she said, “We are always open to new ways we can consolidate with the city and improve efficiency.”
Graves also noted that the Police Department is doing its own staffing study, expected in May, which should shed more light on possible redeployment of law enforcement and civilian employees.
Police board chairman Leland Shurin insisted the Police Department is already prudent with how it spends the money provided by the city.
“The officers and civilians who work for the Police Department are careful and frugal with the funds that they have, and the (police) board is. We know we are handling a lot of money, and we are careful about how it is spent in the best interest of the Police Department and the city,” Shurin said.
Shurin suggested the city’s analysis doesn’t adequately address the Police Department’s complexities.
“There are numerous issues with consolidation of services that are not raised in this generic listing. Among those are the expense of consolidation and the question of whether or not it works,” he said.
“The issues of both privacy and safety of the names and positions of officers who work anti-terrorism, undercover and other such ways that should not be disclosed, should not be part of any city HR department.”
Even as consolidation remains a remote possibility for many functions, there is one area where it’s starting to occur. And that initiative, dubbed One-IT, reveals some seemingly absurd duplications that have occurred for years and are finally being rectified.
For years, the city and the Police Department have maintained two separate and expensive server rooms, on adjacent floors in the communications building across from City Hall. They also paid for separate disaster recovery sites and separate fiber optics. They had completely separate networks, licensing and equipment purchases, without leveraging the economies of scale they could achieve by combining forces.
Mike Schumacher, assistant city manager who is the city’s point person on One-IT, said it doesn’t mean layoffs but big savings on equipment, which should start to show up in 2018.
Deputy Police Chief Karl Oakman, who is a police liaison to city government, said the city and police have also combined fuel operations. They may eventually be able to collaborate on fleet and building maintenance, although he cautioned that the workload remains the same, so that doesn’t assure job cuts.
“They say that’s duplication, but we still have 950 police cars that need to work,” Oakman said.
Oakman said the information technology partnership, for one, has gone well because he and Schumacher work well together and have been able to get past the police/city silos.
“In the past, there’s been politics involved,” Oakman said. “We’re looking at what’s best for the organizations and the community.”