SD27 - Overlapping Police Powers in State Agencies
Over the past few years there has been a continuing interest in studying law enforcement agencies in order to enhance the delivery of criminal justice services throughout the Commonwealth. These studies resulted from concerns that an increasing number of agencies have requested full law enforcement powers and that an unnecessary duplication of effort exists, which may, in fact, jeopardize security and the ultimate success of law enforcement operations, especially those of a covert nature.
Senate Joint Resolution 340, approved in February 1995, specifically directed the Secretary of Public Safety "to conduct an analysis of the overlapping of agencies with statewide police powers in the Commonwealth ... [and] study the need, feasibility, and advisability of placing all such police powers into the Department of State Police under the administrative control of the Superintendent of State Police." The state agencies specifically named in the legislation as having overlapping statewide police powers were the Department of State Police, the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, the Virginia Marine Patrol, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the State Lottery Department, and the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Meetings were held with the various agencies named in the legislation and Virginia State Crime Commission staff to gather information and gain each agency's perspective on the benefits and impediments associated with such a consolidation. In addition, an extensive data collection effort was undertaken to provide sufficient information to objectively assess the feasibility of consolidation and provide an estimate of the financial ramifications.
The Conceptual Basis for Consolidation:
The rationale most frequently advanced for consolidating separate units within an organization, or for merging independent organizations, is commonality of mission, goals, and objectives. It is assumed that this approach will eliminate any duplication of effort, increase efficiency, and reduce costs. Whether actual economies of scale will be realized is largely dependent upon the specific entities that are merged, the method of consolidation, the resultant organizational structure, and administrative issues.
In this study, the consolidation involves agencies whose overall missions are focused on the specific, largely unique roles they play in state government. The agencies are considered to be specialized in the functions they perform and law enforcement is but one of many activities each agency performs to achieve its overall mission. Further, law enforcement efforts are typically restricted to the agency's respective specialization, either through statute or administratively. The Department of State Police is the only agency whose primary mission is to provide general law enforcement services throughout the Commonwealth.
Thus, the major opposition to consolidation centers on a presumed change in focus inherent in consolidating specialized enforcement activities into a larger agency tasked with general enforcement responsibilities. Given existing human resource limitations within state government, it is assumed that specialized efforts would be secondary to general enforcement and/or existing enforcement priorities within the acquiring organization (the Department of State Police).
The advantages of consolidation include the elimination of duplication of services, if existent; a reduction in territorial issues and enhanced coordination and cooperation among previously distinct factions; managerial and administrative savings, if attainable; the standardization of training and equipment for all law enforcement officers involved; shared facilities and communications systems; and standard policies and operating procedures.
Regardless of personal preferences or beliefs, there is no one right or wrong configuration that has proven to be most effective. In fact, different degrees of consolidation and different organizational structures appear to be equally effective, depending upon the specific circumstances. Further, it would be impossible to determine with any degree of certainty how effective a consolidation of law enforcement functions would be. One can make a convincing case for many approaches, and in the end, any number of configurations can be effective, if a fundamentally sound approach to the transition is developed and the affected parties are supportive of the endeavor.
The Feasibility of Consolidation:
A number of issues are raised when considering the feasibility of consolidating law enforcement functions and the possible impact on both the acquiring agency and the entities that are absorbed. It is anticipated that a significant impact would be experienced by the agency that acquires these entities, especially in terms of the additional resources that would be required to administratively support the functions and personnel acquired. More importantly, a number of issues must be considered and decisions made to ensure that additional responsibilities are integrated into existing operations with minimal disruption of services. The major decisions relate to the specific functions that will be transferred; the existing personnel that will be absorbed; where functions and personnel will be placed, organizationally and geographically; training and equipment issues; the accessibility of required computer systems; and many personnel issues. All of these factors are interrelated and personnel issues (i.e., pay grades, retirement benefits, promotional criteria, etc.) tend to be foremost in the minds of employees that are absorbed by another agency, as well as the existing employees of the acquiring agency. How these matters are dealt with can have a tremendous impact on morale and, in fact, determine the overall success of consolidation.
For those reasons, information was obtained from the agencies included in this study concerning job classifications and pay grades, specific job duties and supervisory/management responsibilities, administrative staff, equipment needs, facilities, computer applications, training programs, and funding sources. This information was reviewed to determine the similarity that exists among the agencies involved and the potential impact of consolidation on the Department of State Police. Based on that assessment, a preliminary estimate of the additional costs that might be incurred as a result of consolidation was determined.
There are 377 state employees that were included in this study as subject to transfer due to a consolidation of law enforcement efforts. Classification and salary issues are a major concern, both in terms of funding and morale. Based upon the position descriptions and classification information provided by each agency, the pay grades assigned to various sworn positions within the five specialized agencies tended to be lower than those assigned to State Police sworn classifications. The only exception to this is the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), which is in the process of regrading their sworn positions. If the regrade proposal is approved, ABC's pay grades will be commensurate with State Police pay grades. If the positions transferred from other agencies are upgraded to similar State Police classifications, the additional salary and fringe benefits cost (excluding retirement costs) is estimated to be $1,082,814. (The appropriateness of existing classifications was not examined in this study, nor was a job task analysis performed.)
State Police Retirement System
The State Police Retirement System (SPORS) provides increased retirement benefits, at younger retirement ages, with lower required years of service, to State Police law enforcement officers. The system was developed due to concerns about reduced officer effectiveness related to age and exposure to hazardous duty. Over the years, a number of attempts have been made to incorporate sworn officers from other state agencies into the system; however, the agencies included in this study are not currently covered by SPORS. If transferred employees were fully integrated into the existing State Police structure, positions would be upgraded to be consistent with State Police classifications, and the additional retirement cost is estimated to be $569,587. It is likely that the absorbed personnel would make every effort to be included in SPORS, regardless of the specialized law enforcement functions they may perform.
To effect a consolidation, the appropriations currently provided for law enforcement purposes must be transferred to the State Police. It is anticipated that additional funds, above and beyond those currently appropriated to the respective agencies for law enforcement purposes, would be required to provide adequate funding for the consolidation. In addition, a legislative amendment to Section 4.1-117 of the Code would be required concerning the disposition of ABC profits to localities. While ABC's revenues would remain fairly constant, their profits would increase due to reduced operating expenses. As provided by statute, two-thirds of these profits would be distributed to localities. An amendment specifying the reduction of State Police expenses for ABC enforcement, prior to the distribution of ABC profits, would be required.
All of the agencies studied have a number of leased and/or state-owned facilities located throughout the Commonwealth; however, limited information was provided concerning actual space requirements for enforcement personnel. The Department of State Police does not have adequate facilities for existing personnel; therefore, arrangements would have to be made to share space in state-owned facilities and to transfer existing leases, and funds, to the State Police. This is an area that could provide economies to the state regardless of the consolidation issue.
All of the agencies studied, excluding the Department of the Lottery, issue similar equipment and supplies to their employees. There would be an additional cost of $107,266 for equipping the Department of the Lottery employees with standard State Police equipment and supplies and for providing 9 mm weapons to sworn employees who are not currently issued such weapons.
It is assumed that the vehicles assigned to the affected employees would be transferred to the State Police, as would any funds designated for pool vehicles. It is possible that the vehicles transferred would not be appropriate for the job duties assigned to employees after the transfer, especially if additional options were provided to allow employees to enter existing State Police classifications, such as the trooper classification. In that case, there would be an additional vehicle expense, the extent of which cannot be determined.
The agencies involved in this study provide varying degrees of training to their employees. Most employees are DCJS-certified; however, none of the agencies provide a basic training program as comprehensive as that provided by the State Police, at least in terms of the amount of training required to be a State Police trooper. The Department of State Police has historically required all troopers to graduate from the State Police Academy as a condition of employment. This is a practice that was continued when State Corporation Commission employees were transferred to the State Police, and it is assumed that this policy would be applied to employees joining the State Police through consolidation.
The impact of a consolidation of this magnitude on the State Police Training Division would be significant. It is impossible to determine the specific training that would be required without knowing the particular job tasks that employees would perform and how they would be incorporated into the State Police. At a minimum, a transitional training program would have to be provided to all DCJS-certified officers. Training sessions would be scheduled so that enforcement efforts could continue concurrently with the training program. In addition, in-service training programs concentrated on the specialized areas of enforcement transferred to the State Police would have to be developed and provided biennially to meet DCJS recertification requirements.
Given the magnitude of the training involved, and the need to use field personnel, this could have a negative impact on State Police operations and would significantly increase the workload of existing State Police Academy staff. It is estimated that a total of 7714 man-hours of instruction would be required to provide minimal transition training.
The agencies involved in this study all have a number of computer systems in place that are utilized for enforcement purposes. A number of these systems are also used by non-enforcement personnel for other purposes. Each agency is unique in the systems they maintain, and there are a number of methods which could be used to provide the necessary access to systems. If all five agencies were consolidated with the State Police, there would be a significant impact on State Police systems engineering and systems development, which would require additional data processing personnel. If existing systems were converted to operate in the State Police environment, a detailed analysis of each application would be required. Based on the limited information provided, it is estimated that five additional State Police positions would be required for development and support of these systems. It is anticipated that additional equipment costs would also be incurred; however, further analysis would be required to determine specific needs.
If the law enforcement functions discussed in this report are transferred to DSP, a minimum of 377 positions would be transferred to perform those functions, which equates to a 16 percent increase in the total DSP employment level. The impact on anyone person may not be significant; however, impacts would be felt throughout the organization. Conversely, depending upon the size of a given agency, the number of employees transferred from an agency, and their relative proportion of that agency, there may be little or no cost savings that accrue to the agency that loses a portion of its staff.
If a consolidation occurs, additional positions, above and beyond those positions performing law enforcement functions, or directly supporting law enforcement functions, should be included in the transfer. If all 377 employees are transferred to the State Police, it is estimated that a minimum of five additional positions would be required for administrative support functions in the Property and Finance Division. The estimated cost of these additional positions is $153,451. Additional positions would also be required for data processing and personnel functions. Most agencies included in the study were unable to determine the number of positions that provide indirect support to their law enforcement staff; however, the State Police should not be expected to increase its employment level by 16 percent without some increase in administrative support personnel.
The fundamental issue to be addressed in this study was the degree of overlap that exists among state law enforcement agencies. Given the enforcement powers granted to these agencies by statute, the potential for duplication exists. However, based upon agency practices, the overlap appears to be minimal when comparing enforcement functions performed by the Department of the Lottery, the Marine Resources Commission, and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries with those performed by DSP. Based upon arrest statistics, there appears to be some overlap in the enforcement efforts of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and DSP. However, when the entire range of activities performed by the enforcement arm of DMV is reviewed, only a small portion of their total activities are similar to State Police enforcement efforts. It does appear that the DMV/DSP Auto Theft Unit should be under the single management of the Department of State Police. There also appears to be some similarity in the criminal enforcement efforts of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and the Department of State Police, the extent of which could not be determined. The overlap, however, appears to be largely a result of the integrated nature of their regulatory and criminal responsibilities.
The concept of merging or consolidating entities with common missions, goals, and objectives does not appear to apply where these agencies are concerned. Enforcement tends to be one of many activities these specialized agencies perform to serve their unique constituencies. Thus, there appears to be little congruency between the focus of these agencies and the overall mission of the State Police.
If attaining economies of scale is the compelling reason for considering consolidation, there is no indication that any economic advantage would be a reality. It is anticipated that an initial increase in overall costs would be experienced, as has been the case in some other states. Unless the agencies that are absorbed are capable of transferring administrative support staff as part of the consolidation, there would be additional administrative costs incurred by the State Police. During this preliminary assessment of feasibility, the extent to which specialized agencies would be able to support their remaining staff with fewer administrative positions could not be determined. However, it does appear that certain economies could be achieved through the utilization of shared facilities and communications systems. This could be accomplished without the transfer of enforcement functions, but would require additional study to determine the most efficient method of combining those resources.
In terms of efficiency, a number of agencies expressed concern related to the integrated nature of the job functions they perform. In most cases, these agencies have regulatory responsibilities as well as enforcement responsibilities, with regulatory violations often precipitating the discovery of criminal violations, and vice versa. In some instances, it could be difficult to completely segregate these functions. There is also concern over the inefficiencies that could result from enforcement and regulatory personnel operating in separate organizations and sharing databases and other information that would need to be retained by the specialized agency. The assumption has been that a consolidation would only involve enforcement responsibilities: It is questionable whether it would be advantageous to train and equip State Police sworn personnel to perform regulatory functions. However, many configurations of a workable and efficient "public safety department" are possible.
The estimated total additional cost of consolidation ranges from $249,977 (assuming that an agency's law enforcement functions are transferred to the Department of State Police "as is"; i.e., there is no change in focus for the staff involved, the existing salary structure is maintained, existing equipment is transferred along with the positions, there is no change in the retirement program, and only minimal additional training is provided to familiarize staff with State Police policies and procedures) to $1,913,118 (assuming that law enforcement functions are fully integrated into the existing State Police structure). Given the many decisions that must be made prior to consolidation, as well as during the consolidation process, and the number of largely unknown factors at this point, the total cost could exceed the $1.9 million estimate.
Additional study would be required to plan and effect a smooth transition of law enforcement functions to the Department of State Police. If consolidation is pursued, a one-year transition period should be established to resolve the issues addressed in this report and allow adequate time to complete the initiative. Initially, a separate bureau of special operations within the State Police could be established, with the long-term goal of further restructuring the Department to more effectively merge the various functions and create a more efficient operation. An implementation team, composed of representatives from all affected agencies, could be established to plan and monitor the transition of responsibilities and resources.
Any legislation enacted to effect a consolidation should allow sufficient flexibility so that internal decisions, such as classification decisions, can be made by the acquiring agency which do not jeopardize the agency's organizational structure, violate policies, or create an "unequal pay for equal work" situation. Conversely, any appropriations language should be sufficiently specific regarding the transfer of resources to mitigate the negotiations that would be required to effectively absorb additional responsibilities.