Back to Library » Finance » Police Budgeting: What We Learned at GFOA’s 2021 Conference
Created: Tuesday, July 27, 2021 | Updated: Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Last week we attended GFOA’s 2021 Annual Conference where we learned how cities are approaching budgeting & procurement after 2020: a global pandemic, nationwide shutdowns, and an increased awareness of police misconduct that fueled public demand for change.

We attended the session, “Rethinking Police Budgeting: Practical Approaches for a Better Community,” and asked ourselves the question: how can local governments work with their peers in public safety to implement reforms?

Here’s what we learned:

Police agencies have been working for years to become more progressive.

The death of George Floyd by the hands of a police officer in May 2020 sparked a national conversation around police violence and reform, with a widespread public demand to “Defund the Police.”

Prior to this movement, police departments around the country were receiving more than 2 million service calls annually, which equates to approximately 6,000 service calls per day. Departments were experiencing severe shortages, leaving little room to pursue and prioritize meaningful reform. For example, the City of Houston alone lost 350 officers in 2020 due to retirement.


“Defund the Police” actually means Reimagining Police Programs

More progressive cities like New York City, Los Angeles and Atlanta have moved to reimagining alternative police programs. These programs could look like having special, unarmed law enforcement units respond to mental health, homelessness and other social based calls.

These alternative programs do not involve any true defunding. Instead, they reallocate the funds from one area to another.


Reimagined police programs require long-term recruitment and training

Police departments nationwide are already short handed. Moving existing officers to these new programs would create the need to recruit and train new officers to fill vacated positions. That process is currently taking about two years to achieve, with approximately nine months to recruit, another nine months to train and another six months of on-the-job training.


‘It is not illegal to have mental health issues’

Reimagined police programs heavily prioritize training officers to appropriately respond to the many social and mental health related calls police departments receive. This approach reinforces the notion that “it is not illegal to have mental health issues.” Effectively training police officers ultimately increases equity in communities.

These takeaways come from GFOA’s session, “Rethinking Police Budgeting: Practical Approaches for a Better Community.

Speakers included LaDon Reynolds, Chief of Police, Village of Oak Park, IL; Larry J. Yium, Retired Deputy Director/Consultant, Houston Police Department; Craig Lesner Senior Manager, Chicago office.

The full conversation is available on GFOA’s Learning Management System.