According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, the Bowie Police Department is short about 45 officers for a city its size, but Bowie police officials say 12 additional officer positions over the next five years should do just fine.
According to the bureau, a city of Bowie’s size should have about 1.8 officers per 1,000 residents, meaning Bowie should have about 100 officers. Bowie has 55 hired officers with 57 positions available, and Bowie Police Chief John Nesky said the city could use more officers as it grows.
However, instead of suggesting 45 new slots, Nesky is asking the City Council for 12 new positions as part of the department’s five-year strategic plan.
The plan spreads those hires out over five years, with the first request of four new officer positions in fiscal 2015, according to the plan. The fifth officer would be added in fiscal year 2019. Bowie has grown from about 50,000 people in 2000 to about 55,000 in 2010, according to U.S. Census data. Using the bureau’s average, that equals about one new officer per year.
“Anybody can assign a number and say ‘We need this many people,’” Nesky said to the council Feb. 18. “But we want to answer why that many people.”
Nesky’s reasoning is that 12 additional positions would suit the city’s public safety needs and goals based on current and anticipated call volumes from population increases and department needs, such as training officers. He said he also plans to reorganize managerial positions with new captain and lieutenant positions focused on making patrol squads more efficient by helping the squads share information about crimes in the city. Bowie police receive help from the Prince George’s County Police Department, which investigates commercial burglaries and robberies, but he hopes increases in staff will allow the city’s police department to handle those cases, as well.
Even with a below-average number of officers, Nesky said city crime has been trending downward over the last seven years, save for a few spikes in some categories. In 2012, assaults and thefts increased, but those numbers decreased in 2013, according to Bowie crime stats. In 2013, auto thefts and commercial burglaries increased, an increase seen countywide, Nesky said.
The approval of the new positions is up to the council, which has routinely supported the police department, said Councilman Issac Trouth (Dist. 4). The four officers are estimated to cost about $339,000, according to the plan, and Trouth said the council will likely support the department, but the city’s budget will dictate the final decision.
The city’s revenues grew by about 8 percent in fiscal 2013, while city officials anticipate a 5 percent revenue increase this fiscal year and a 3.8 percent increase in fiscal 2015, the same year as the requested officers, according to the mayor’s State of the City address.
“The city is much safer now than it was prior to the Bowie Police Department,” Trouth said of the department’s almost seven years of activity. “We as elected officials have got to be on top of providing core services to our residents.”
Bowie Mayor G. Frederick Robinson said he was pleased with the department’s success. He said the police “have earned the respect” of the council, so their strategic plan carries weight.
“I think he is doing the right thing in laying out the strategic plan,” Robinson said of Nesky. “The council is pleased with their overall performance.”