Arlington's community policing roster could grow shorter if the county board accepts certain reductions in the proposed $1.1 billion budget currently being hashed out.
Doing so would mean fewer officers available to attend community, civic and business events, fewer available to give safety presentations and fewer to focus on quality of life issues of a single community, according to a departmental email.
Police Chief Doug Scott told Patch on Tuesday that he's begun to hear from residents and civic associations about the matter.
"So far, they're worried about it," Scott said. "They realize that in many ways they are connected to the police department through our district teams. And they're apprehensive of changing that model."
Community police officers attend civic association meetings and provide neighborhood crime and safety information. They help keep an eye on Arlington's trails, attend parades and picnics and other community events and help identify crime trends as they develop.
[More: Police Ask Residents to be 'First Line of Defense' Against Crime]
"It seems to me we're actually dismantling all that," board member Chris Zimmerman said. "I don't think we ought to be doing that in this budget, and I don't think — and this is more of a long-term thing — that we should make reductions of this kind."
He added: "There are things worth paying for, and I think this is one of them."
County Manager Barbara Donnellan admittedly put Scott in a difficult position when she asked him to recommend a 3.5 percent reduction to the police department's budget. Scott said the agency determined it could not reduce resources that put officers on the street who respond to 911 calls or those that fund criminal investigations.
The department identified potential cuts to its gang unit or the number of school resource officers but determined the least damage would be done by reducing the number of community police officers from 20 to 13 through attrition.
"We're actually very grateful that they're all not on the table today," Scott told the county board during a Tuesday work session.
"There will be some pain in these cuts," he said. School resource officers could help supplement the community policing effort in the summer, he said, along with 16 volunteer auxiliary officers.
If elected officials accept the proposal, the department over the next two years.
The cuts are among $9.3 million in reductions in the spending plan that would begin July 1. The Arlington County Board has given itself the authority to raise taxes as much as 5 percent to further help balance the budget.
[More: Arlington Real Estate Taxes Could Increase by Up to 5 Percent]
Scott called the district teams "the heart and soul" of the county's policing effort. He suggested one way to measure the effectiveness of community policing would be in terms of increased crime commensurate with a reduction of officers.
"What we're talking about here is the element of the department that is primarily engaged in building trust with the community," he told the board. "We spend a lot of time solving problems so that we don't have repeat calls."
Board Vice Chairman Jay Fisette said he appreciated the well-thought-out proposal and that he would consider it in the context of the larger budget.
"There's nothing here to suggest dismantling community policing," he said. "That's a fallacy. This is reorganizing."