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Study commissioned by Goodnight indicates police shortage

Consulting firm found department needed at least five more patrol officers

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STAFFING — A study concerning KPD’s staffing levels evaluates calls for service per officer and overall staffing levels.

Even though former city officials commonly pushed back against 2019 campaign rhetoric calling for increased police staffing, as early as last October they knew more police were needed.

A report completed in August of last year that was commissioned by the city of Kokomo during Mayor Greg Goodnight’s final term in office seemingly contradicted much of the rhetoric city officials flung into the public during the 2019 election. Even though city officials argued against claims calling for the hiring of more officers for Kokomo Police Department, the study performed at the behest of the Goodnight administration clearly indicated a need for more police officers.

The study, conducted by KSM Consulting, began as early as July of last year with members of the consulting firm dissecting data provided by the city and conducting two ride-alongs with KPD personnel. Then this information was utilized to “provide actionable insights centered around police department patrol resources, their shifts, and all relevant associated variables” as well as “recommendations to staffing levels and staffing models.”

To assess staffing levels, KSM utilized two methodologies.

The first was a per capita recommendation from the Federal Bureau of Investigations. While the writers of the KSM study noted the “method is generally ineffective as it fails to take into consideration demographics and crime conditions of any particular community,” the methodology showed a shortage within KPD.

In total, the FBI methodology indicated the department should staff a total of 93 sworn officers and a minimum patrol function of 60 percent of the agency, or 56 patrol officers in the case of KPD.

At the time of the study, the department operated with 79 sworn officers, with 45 acting within the patrol division. More recently, the department had 81 officers on its payroll. However, five were vacationing out and four officers were on light duty or sick leave due to work-based injuries. Within patrol, 45 officers also currently still work in that particular department.

Similarly, KSM utilized the Bartell Formula of Manpower Allocation for another staffing methodology. With that method, KSM found the department should utilize 51 total officers in the patrol division.

Either way, KSM concluded more officers were needed.

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“Current patrol staffing stands at 45 officers,” read the report. “Depending on the methodology, one could argue that staffing should be as high as 67 officers. However, a more measured approach using the Bartell Formula would indicate the need for a total of 51 patrol officers and supervisors.”

Police politics

During the 2019 municipal election cycle, public safety served as the primary source of debate among candidates, both those vying for a spot on the Kokomo Common Council as well as candidates seeking the mayor’s office.

In particular, public debate often resulted in pushback from the Goodnight administration. At the time the study was commissioned in July, Goodnight and his administration publicly criticized an action plan that now-Mayor Tyler Moore campaigned on that focused on the need for more police officers.

What’s significant was that Goodnight continued to push back on the idea that the department needed more officers even after he probably had received a draft report of KSM’s findings in August. During a speech at an event sponsored by the Greater Kokomo Chamber of Commerce last October, Goodnight cited declining calls for service to argue against the need for increased police staffing.

The Kokomo Tribune quoted Goodnight as saying, “You can see there’s a substantial decline in the number of police calls, each and every year. And a lot of people say, ‘Oh, it’s busier. They’re busier.’ The truth is they’re not.”

KSM didn’t evaluate multiple years of data for its study, but it did evaluate calls for service per officer utilizing data from 2018. For that year, KSM found that each patrol officer fielded an average of 909.2 calls for service. The only similarly-sized city KSM evaluated that had more calls per patrol officer was Elkhart, with 1,005.11. Greenwood’s ratio of calls per officer was 695.77, Noblesville’s was 674.77, Terre Haute’s was 625.22, and Anderson’s was 622.49.

Since Moore took office in January, KPD began to bolster its forces, with new KPD Chief Doug Stout claiming eight officers will be sent to the Indiana Police Academy in May. Hiring beyond that, said the chief, will continue with the target number of officers being no fewer than 100.

Moore, when asked for comment on the study, said, “Being given the findings of the report just supports our position and the chief’s decision to move forward with increasing the staffing and resource levels within the department, knowing it will not totally eliminate the issue but obviously provide the support these officers need to better service the community.”

The Kokomo Perspective informally requested copies of the KSM Consulting report last September but at the time was told by the city administration it was still in draft form. The version of the report now released under the Moore administration indicated it was still in draft form.