A police department’s ability to accomplish its public service mission relies on the effective procurement and management of equipment necessary to meet its established goals and objectives. For instance: effective traffic control requires speed detection equipment, patrol units require vehicles of various configurations, and each individual police officer requires personal equipment such as body armor, a firearm and a body camera. All required equipment associated with the normal business of policing must be efficiently procured and its accurate accountability ensured.
Police departments procure equipment through various methods that include direct budgeting, grants, loans, and use or forfeiture orders. Primarily funded via budget appropriation, the department head, (usually the Chief), will identify budgetary line items and allocate the appropriation to necessities such as salaries, uniforms, fuel and vehicles. Federal and state grants are often created to address a need that is affecting either a localized or larger community. Seat belt traffic enforcement, de-escalation training, and respirator purchases and training are examples of items and services that are procured via grant awards. The Department of Defense, a federal organization, often loans or turns over ownership of certain equipment, such as vehicles and weapons, to civilian police. Use or forfeiture orders are usually associated with an investigation in which the department has participated. These orders enable a department to avail themselves of equipment that was an instrument of crime and subsequently placed in police service, or sold at auction with the proceeds used by law enforcement. Each of these methods have specific procurement guidance and accountability requirements for the property in the department’s possession.
A police departments success is, to some extent, related to their effective use of these various procurement methods. Procurement, though, is just the first step in effectively managing department equipment. Accountability of that equipment to include its serviceability, maintenance, and location is also a fiscal responsibility of the police department. Effective accountability begins with procurement and continues as long as the equipment remains in the department’s inventory, and sometimes even
beyond-- such as in the case of firearms where records should be retained indefinitely. Procurement and accountability requirements are specifically addressed in The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agency’s (CALEA) standard 17 entitled Fiscal Management and Agency Property Procurement. Professional police departments follow this guidance through CALEA accreditation, individual states’ professional standards, or in accordance with departmental Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
Professionalism in policing drives public confidence. Fiscal responsibility—to include effective and efficient procurement and maintenance of departmental property—is a requirement for an optimally functioning police department and a key tenet of a professional police department. The inability to procure and maintain items in accordance with required timelines can have serious consequences and render a department unable to perform its mission.