Saving Green by Going Green

Law enforcement agencies nationwide are attempting to stretch their budgets with new resource-saving technologies.

City and county governments nationwide are still under pressure to cut their police expenses as they finalize their fiscal 2010 budgets.

Consider Linton, Ind. Its police department may see cuts of nearly $50,000. The proposed budget trims money from the department’s fuel allowance and freezes equipment and vehicle purchases.

The Oakland (Calif.) Police Department fares little better. On the verge of closing an $83 million budget shortfall, members of Oakland City Council have proposed slashing the police department’s personnel budget by 10 percent.

The Tallahassee (Fla.) Police Department faces a similar predicament. Its city officials recently released a proposed 2010 budget that eliminates 11 positions from the city police force.

With budget cuts of this magnitude in their sights, many police agencies are finding that changing their methods and procedures to make them more environmentally green can save another kind of green: dollars.

Spending Money to Save Money
“We are all looking to reduce future costs,” says Chief Robert Stewart of the Cotati (Calif.) Police Department, whose department sought to save money by reducing its energy use with a new police facility. While green features added $700,000 to the project’s final tab, Stewart expects a rapid return on the investment in reduced energy costs.

Stewart says the police budget foots the bill for the building’s ongoing operational costs, so any energy savings impacts what the department can do in terms of employees, and equipment and vehicle purchases. “If I had to pay for building maintenance without a green building, it would cost substantially more,” Stewart says. “Having green features lessens the impact on our budget.”

The bad news is that not every department has the means to build a green structure to save money, both now and in the future. The good news is there are many smaller environmental initiatives that can help almost any department save money now. Green IT purchases, hybrid vehicles, squad car propane conversions, and other green innovations are now being viewed as investments that pay for themselves quickly then add more cash to the bottom line.

While the cash saved through these initiatives may land back in city coffers, the savings puts departments in a prime position to ask for more money and get it. “They can certainly say, ‘We just saved you a half million dollars, can we at least hire three more officers?’” says Kevin Smith, spokesman for Chicago’s Public Building Commission (PBC).

The argument against going green often comes round to the misconception that being environmentally friendly costs more, says Houston Taylor, deputy assistant commissioner for acquisition management of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), a governmental organization helping to put law enforcement agencies in control of managing their green initiatives.

“It may cost more to buy something upfront,” Taylor admits. “But if you look at the whole life cycle of an item, good, or service, you’ll see the savings in the end. And as we get smarter and technology advances, those upfront costs will be reduced.”

The truth is that going green doesn’t have to cost more. As departments face cash flow problems, the following agencies have unearthed ways to embrace the green movement and save more than $110,000 as a result.

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