Shopping helps keep Oklahoma City police officers on patrol, officials say

Because sales tax is the single biggest source of revenue for day-to-day operations in Oklahoma City, and policing takes the largest single share of those general fund dollars, transactions that generate sales tax are key to keeping officers on city streets.
by William Crum Modified: May 12, 2014 at 7:00 pm •  Published: May 12, 2014
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Shoppers could help Oklahoma City resolve a debate over how much the police force should grow next year.

A report Friday said monthly sales tax collections were up 8 percent over the same time last year, more than double the projected increase.

Because sales tax is the single biggest source of revenue for day-to-day operations, and policing takes the largest single share of those general fund dollars, transactions that generate sales tax are key to keeping officers on city streets.

So if the city and police union were to speak with one voice, the message to residents might be, “Keep shopping.”

Policing dominated the discussion last week as the city council opened its 2014-15 budget hearings.

City Manager Jim Couch has proposed adding 28 positions, including 21 uniformed officers, to the police force in the budget year beginning July 1.

Last year, the council added 40 officers. Ward 3 Councilman Larry McAtee says he would like to add 40 more.

“My personal conviction is that providing for the safety of the citizens should the No. 1 goal of city government,” McAtee said in a phone interview.

Couch told McAtee at Tuesday’s budget hearing that he would work with him and “come up with a plan” to find the $850,000 needed to add 12 more positions to the police budget.

Fewer police in OKC

By some measures, police presence lags in Oklahoma City, a fact the Fraternal Order of Police has worked to keep front-and-center the past several years.

An analysis of FBI data published last week by Governing.com showed Oklahoma City had 16.8 officers per 10,000 residents in 2012, about average for cities with more than 50,000 residents but well below the ratio of police officers to citizens in many similar-sized cities.

Atlanta, smaller than Oklahoma City but the center of a metropolitan area five times the size, had 40.6 officers per 10,000 residents. Kansas City, Mo., had 27.4, Minneapolis had 21.8, and El Paso had 15.3.

Governing.com reported police presence varied greatly, driven by a range of factors including call volumes and municipal budgets.

One of Oklahoma City’s greatest challenges is policing a city of 621 square miles, among the country’s largest by land area.

Meg Hollis, a Michigan State University assistant professor who researches police staffing, told Governing.com that some jurisdictions base staffing decisions primarily on how they compare to peer cities. Hollis suggested a deeper analysis, including examination of call volume and the geographic distribution of requests over time.

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by William Crum
Reporter
OU and Norman High School graduate, formerly worked as a reporter and editor for the Associated Press, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, and the Norman Transcript. Married, two children, lives in Norman.
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By the numbers

Oklahoma City had 16.8 police officers per 10,000 residents in 2012, about average for cities with more than 50,000 residents. Oklahoma City generally lags, though, when taking into account figures from cities with comparable populations and from other NBA towns. Here are some of those cities, with the number of officers per 10,000 residents:

• St. Louis 41.5

• Cleveland 37.6

• Memphis, Tenn. 36.7

• New Orleans 35.0

• Milwaukee, Wis. 31.8

• Orlando 29.2

• Miami 25.4

• Columbus, Ohio 22.9

• Salt Lake City 22.1

• Charlotte, N.C. 21.2

• Seattle 20.6

• Austin, Texas 19.5

• Indianapolis 19.0

• Las Vegas 17.3

Oklahoma City 16.8

• San Antonio 16.5

• Portland, Ore. 16.2

Within Oklahoma:

• Tulsa 19.6

• Lawton 17.3

• Midwest City 16.9

• Moore 14.3

• Norman 13.9

• Edmond 13.3

• Broken Arrow 12.0

Source: FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program, via Governing.com

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