Does Geneva Have Too Many Police Officers?

The City of Geneva Police Department employs a total of 34 sworn officers, in a city of slightly more than 13,000 residents.

Around 100 miles west of Geneva, the City of Tonawanda (NY) Police Department employs a total of 28 sworn officers, in a city of slightly more than 15,000 residents.

Why does the City of Tonawanda have six fewer police officers but 2,000 more residents than the City of Geneva? Does Geneva have too many police officers?

Geneva Believer has examined publicly available information related to staffing levels for five similarly-sized cities across New York State to find out how Geneva stacks up.

“Police State” by katesheets under CC 2.0 License

Geneva: Fewest Residents & Most Cops?

There are six cities in New York State with populations between 13,000 and 15,500:

Utilizing official online information sources for each of the six cities, it appears that the City of Geneva has more total police officers than each of the other five larger cities.

While Olean and Batavia are close to Geneva in total number of sworn officers, both of those cities have significantly larger populations.

Cops Per Capita

It also appears that, out of the six small cities, Geneva has the highest number of police officers per capita .

In Geneva, there is one sworn police officer for every 390 residents.

In the other five cities, there is an average of one sworn police officer for every 496 residents.

If the City of Geneva had an average of one sworn police officer for every 496 residents, it would have 27 sworn officers, seven fewer than the current roster.

How Many Is Enough?

The City of Geneva’s top two highest-paid employees are police officers.

Three out of the City of Geneva’s top 5 highest-paid employees are police officers.

Sixty percent of the City of Geneva’s top 20 highest-paid employees are police officers.

If the Geneva Police have even one more officer on staff than absolutely necessary, city taxpayers lose millions of dollars over the course of that officer’s career.

Several current city councilors have expressed support for examining the staffing levels in certain city departments, including the fire department (Councilor Ken Camera) and the DPW (At-Large Councilor Frank Gaglianese).

Geneva City Councilor At-Large and Massa Construction superintendent Frank Gaglianese

No city department should be immune from having their staffing levels examined, including the police department.

A preliminary examination of police staffing levels in Geneva and five similarly-sized New York State cities has revealed enough evidence of a disparity to justify more serious study.

City Council needs authorize and complete a bona fide and impartial cost-benefit analysis of the GPD to find out if the people of Geneva are being charged millions of unnecessary dollars so they can be over-policed.


United States Census Bureau 2010 Census

3 Comments on “Does Geneva Have Too Many Police Officers?”

  1. I agree that it appears that the GPD is over staffed, but how important of an issue is this? Lets take your number of seven excess officers as accurate. It is hard to say what salary each officer makes since the specific positions are not identified. Lets just assume $100,000/officer per year to have a rough idea. $100,000/year x 7 officers=$700,000/year; $700,000/13,261 Geneva citizens =$52.79/citizen each year. About $200 a year for a typical family of four is something for city government to discuss; but one would think this is the exact sort of cost/benefit analysis they do all the time.
    Another way to look at it is that this is about 20% of the police budget, which is make up about 20% of the general fund spending by the city. Is there a specific reason that this roughly 4% of city spending caught your eye?

    1. You are only considering salaries. Here is a link to a breakdown of the police budget related to employees. When various benefits are included, those $100,000 salaries actually cost around $140,000 per year.

      2020 Budget (Police)

      I don’t believe a cost-benefit analysis has been done for the police department for years, if ever. And by that, I mean an in-depth study and comparison to other cities related to population, staffing, crime rates, number of calls answered, types of calls answered, salaries and benefits compared to other municipalities, etc. Geneva’s population is in decline, so has the police department eliminated any positions in recent years? How long has the staffing level been at 34 officers?

      To answer your question about how I first became interested in looking at police staffing…since moving to Geneva, I have found the number of police on the road at any given time of the day to be striking. I have lived in larger upstate metropolitan areas for most of my adult life, but have never seen police as frequently as I see them in Geneva. In speaking with other people who have moved to Geneva from other cities, I kept hearing the same thing, over and over again. “You can’t drive two blocks without seeing a cop.” So while my curiosity was initially peaked through personal and anecdotal experience, I also think that asking for a study of policing in Geneva is not at all unreasonable.

      At the last City Council meeting, Councilor Gaglianese pushed for a restructuring of the DPW by eliminating management positions. These jobs, all in the $100,000 range, would “only” save taxpayers $2-300,000 per year. So should everything remain status quo in the DPW, or should City Council look at any and all potential ways to reduce spending?

      I understand what you’re saying, but I don’t think that questioning the police budget is less important than other stories because it “only” is 4% of city spending. If an officer is costing taxpayers an average of $100,000 per year, that might be a drop in the bucket in one annual budget, but over the course of an officer’s career, we’re talking millions of dollars…for just one cop.

      Finally, there are other negative outcomes from over policing a community. That is a much longer conversation, for people who know much more about the subject than I do.

  2. Thank you for this. We might put the comment about the relative inexpensiveness of extra police officers (Mark Varvayanis) into some perspective. Considering the recent Geneva Believer article (6/22/20) describing the budgets of the GPD (3.5 million) vs the budgets that have been cut or eliminated, including those for recreation, the aging, those addressing housing complaints and discrimination, or small business help (about 400K), or approximately 10% of the total police budget, the downsizing of the GPD to be at least in line with comparable small cities would create a much stronger sense of community, trust, and engagement. If we start to think of concerns we have in Geneva as issues of public health or public safety and not of “policing” perhaps the city will become truly a unique urban space. It would be interesting for a sociologist to compare the “crime rates” in each of these comparable cities, as well as demographics, and if there is a similar town/city arrangement as in the town/city of Geneva (an anachronism that needs addressing), the strength of police unions in each city, and what I would call the escalation factor (more police, more arms leads to more belligerent confrontations). It is a question of values.

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