Survey of Colorado cities and towns finds rising efficiencies delivering public safety services, rosy economies
Author: Ernest Luning - January 5, 2018 - Updated: January 5, 2018
Colorado municipalities are delivering public safety services — police and fire departments — more efficiently in the last year, according to a survey released Thursday, though most cities and towns are finding it hard to recruit and retain officers.
The 2018 State of Our Cities & Towns Report, conducted by the Colorado Municipal League, also found that local officials tend to believe their economies improved last year and were expecting rising revenues from the year before.
Police departments are confronting evolving challenges by turning increasingly to community policing and civilian community officers, and police say they’re helping build public trust with body cameras and antidotes available to revive opioid overdose victims, the survey’s sponsors said in a release. Every department said it shares at least one service with another department — from 911 dispatch systems to training, SWAT operations and crime labs.
Most calls to fire departments are for medical emergencies, the survey found, and departments are responding more efficiently with a variety of options, including full-service ambulances, community paramedics and alternative vehicles. Half of all municipalities have a Community Wildfire Protection Plan.
While local economies and municipal budgets appeared to be on the upswing, the officials who answered the survey nearly all named several issues as budget challenges, with lack of funding for roads and bridges and affordable housing called major challenges by roughly half the respondents. Rising health insurance costs, higher demand for municipal services, a tight labor market and unfunded water and wastewater projects also ranked high on the list.
Among the survey’s findings:
• 59 percent of Colorado’s cities and towns run community policing programs
• 51 percent of police departments use officer body cameras, with two-thirds of small towns employing the devices
• 47 percent of departments deploy opioid revival drugs Naloxone, or Narcan, with police officers
• 69 percent of forces say it’s a challenge to recruit new officers, citing inadequate compensation, difficulty attracting candidates to rural areas and public perceptions of law enforcement
• 50 percent of municipalities thought their economy was doing better in 2017 compared to 2016, while only 13 percent thought it was doing worse
• 48 percent thought 2017 would bring in higher municipal revenues that 2016, and 16 percent thought revenues would drop
Read the full results here.
The annual survey was administered by Denver-based Corona Insights last summer for Colorado Municipal League, a nonprofit group representing Colorado’s cities and towns. Out of the state’s 271 municipalities, 105 completed the survey, making for a 39-percent response rate. Municipalities across the state and of all sizes took part.