There have been several newspaper stories over the past few months and a recent editorial in the Mt. Juliet News referred to the “fact” that “the department is woefully undermanned when compared to a nationally recognized recommended average of manpower. ”
Problem is, there is no nationally recommended average of manpower.
And comparing the ratio of officers to population in Lebanon and Mt. Juliet is misleading in the extreme.
It assumes that there is some “one size fits all” easy formula to determine the size of a local police force.
There isn’t. And for a very simple, and logical reason. Local communities vary quite widely. The number of police officers per 1,000 population in New York City will be vastly different than the number of police officers per 1,000 population in Brentwood, Tennessee. And neither of them will be wrong.
It takes a bit more research to make sense of the numbers, but not all that much.
Thankfully, for the past eight years the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has been compiling crime statistics for every city and county in Tennessee. And it’s available online here: http://www.tbi.state.tn.us/divisions/isd_csu_sac.htm
There’s also an online statistical center where you can retrieve the data in a variety of interesting ways: http://www.tncrimeonline.com/.
To evaluate a local community’s need for police officers, the first and most important statistic is the crime rate.
According to the TBI, there were 618,998 crimes reported in 2008 in the state of Tennessee. With a population of 6.15 million, the crime rate for the state is 100.54 crimes per 1,000 population. It’s even more interesting if one examines the data for local jurisdictions. You can look at the full report by clicking here: 2008 Crime rate.pdf
The crime rate in Memphis is 191.49, or almost twice the state average.
In Nashville, it’s 148.05, or about 50% above the state average.
Lebanon’s rate is 143.43 crimes per 1,000 pop – almost the same as Nashville.
LaVergne’s rate is 81.03 or about 20% below the state average.
Wilson County’s rate is 77.58.
Brentwood’s rate is 28.38.
Why in the world would anyone assume that Brentwood should have the same number of police officers per 1,000 pop as Memphis? Memphis’ crime rate is more than 6 times higher than Brentwood’s.
And Mt. Juliet?
Mt. Juliet’s crime rate is 65.98 crimes per 1,000 pop. That’s less than half the crime rate in Lebanon. Logically, if both cities have populations of 25,000 Lebanon will need twice the police officers as Mt. Juliet. Which is about the size ratio of the two departments.
Mt. Juliet is NOT “woefully undermanned.” Mt. Juliet does NOT need to add any police officers.