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Bi-Dimensional Staffing Formula


Determining appropriate staffing levels is a widespread challenge for university administrators and Campus Public Safety Departments. Difficult economic times have made the situation worse, as fewer resources result in difficult allocation decisions. But even when resources are plentiful, the challenge remains.

Most public safety organizations base their staffing decisions on a ratio of officers to population, the “simplest and least appropriate” method according to the International Association of Chiefs of Police.1 But the unreliability of benchmarking and difficulties of workload analysis make even those efforts uneven.

Another approach is suggested by John Schuiteman: “Adequate police protection, like beauty, lies in the eyes of the beholder. The optimal or appropriate ratio of troopers (or officers) to population, or traffic volume, reported crimes or accidents, etc., is not a matter of mathematics or statistics. It is a matter of human judgment and community resources.”

Margolis Healy and Associates argues that instead it is a combination of the three: mathematics, human judgment, and resources. Denying the quantitative knowledge found in historical data regarding shift activity results in staffing decisions based on an incomplete picture, just as relying solely on a computer program such as the PAM (Personnel Allocation Model) fails to take into account human judgment. We developed two analyses that together provide an in-depth, accurate description of staffing needs for individual institutions: a Space Analysis (Space FTE Method) based on five factors that include the institution’s gross square footage and buildings; and a Shift Activity Analysis (also known as a workload analysis) based on shift activity levels, deployment philosophy, and human resource practices. The process is known as the MHA Bi-Dimensional Staffing Formula™ (MHA – BDSF).

To collect data and account for variables, we conduct site visits (when necessary), interview key personnel, and review documents (including but not limited to briefing logs, annual security reports, budget documentation, campus planning documents, daily activity summary reports, dispatch schedule and staffing roster, organizational charts, yearly statistics, patrol zone documentation, position descriptions and staffing information, and written directives and policies). Beyond the base numbers created from the BDSF analysis, the institution must weigh political and other factors to determine the specific mix of public safety staffing (e.g., sworn, non-sworn, contract security, proprietary security, dispatch) ideally suited to meet its public safety needs 24/7/365. This comprehensive approach results in staffing recommendations based on realistic current and future needs.


Our “space method” uses a combination of five factors that work together to describe a campus in terms of its public safety needs:

This scale is based on square footage and type of space, as the public safety needs of academic, research, administrative and residential facilities differ significantly. Building off of APPA’s work projecting space needs for maintenance and custodial staffing,2 we assign a number of public safety staff per one million square feet of space, dependent on the kind of space, and the chosen public safety level (as described by the Public Safety Matrix—see below). Current and future staffing needs must take into account the overall goal for public safety, aligning workload capacity with expectation. When the two are out of alignment (in other words when expectation exceeds capacity), a host of detrimental issues occur, both in terms of staffing (high turnover, stress, excessive overtime, etc), and in terms of satisfaction with the performance of the public safety department.

Public Safety Matrix
We developed the Public Safety Matrix (PSM) to help university administrators and public safety leaders identify and describe the desired levels of public safety services and their impact on the safety and security of the campus. It assists in aligning the expectations of both groups.

The matrix has five levels, with a general description of the essential characteristics expected to measure the effectiveness of campus safety and security at each level.

• Tightly coordinated and organized
• Well developed written directive system
• Highly trained, professional staff
• Fully developed proactive and reactive services
• High customer satisfaction
• Healthy and/or optimal budgets based on historical data and reasonable/anticipated needs

• Coordinated and organized
• Developed written directive system
• Well trained, professional staff
• Reasonable balance of proactive and reactive services
• Good customer satisfaction
• Reasonable budgets based on historical data and reasonable/ anticipated needs

• Coordinated and organized primarily around reactive services
• Adequate but not fully developed written directive system
• Basically trained, professional staff
• More focused on reactive services; proactive services as resources allow
• Decent customer satisfaction, with some struggles
• Strained budgets

• Coordinated and organized solely on reactive services
• Poorly developed and implemented written directive system
• Minimally trained staff
• Focused on reactive services
• Poor customer satisfaction in some areas
• Limiting budgets

• Reactive services only
• Lacking written directive system
• Inadequately trained staff
• Poor customer satisfaction
• Inadequate budgets

Public safety staffing numbers are influenced, in part, by activity level. To account for this influence, we established this factor that makes assumptions about the amount of time and attention an average call for service may require. The call volume factor does not take into account officer initiated activities, but instead focuses on calls coming into the public safety organization by the greater campus community. They may include reported crime; service needs; lost and found; etc. Based on our professional experiences as campus public safety administrators and the significant number of staffing assessments we’ve conducted for institutions throughout the United States and Canada, we assume that a public safety officer would be out of service (e.g., unavailable for other calls) for approximately 30 minutes (travel time, activity, clearance back into service) on a reasonable call for service. This time frame may be adjusted for a particular university or college by data provided by the campus public safety agency.

Different types of buildings have different safety and security needs, so the greater the diversity of buildings on a campus the greater the impact on the public safety organization. This isn’t to say that the sheer number of buildings itself won’t create challenges, but this is accounted for in a different factor (see below). Numerous buildings of varying functions (e.g., research, academic, administrative and residential), each with specific demands, can pull or push the public safety organization into many different requirements, regardless of the size of the institution. This factor does not discriminate between on-campus and off-campus buildings and spaces, as long as they fall under the purview of the public safety organization’s span of control.

The size of the campus has a profound impact on the public safety services of the institution. Moving through acres of corridors and across miles of roads takes time, and therefore affects response.

A variable often missing from consideration of staffing is the mission of an institution, which has an impact on its usage, community draw, and level of complexity for public safety services. We may expect, for example, seminaries and theological institutions to have a subdued overall activity level beyond the focus of its needs; size; and nature of its population. On the other extreme, community colleges are often open, busy, and vulnerable to a host of safety and security issues given the size of the population and other factors.

Four factors are used to create a comprehensive view of current shift activity and to project the number of patrol staff required to meet the need as calculated by the workload analysis.

This formula takes into account the number of hours required for public safety coverage by including the number of hours in a year for one position less the lost time element (e.g., the allotted vacation time, sick time available, compensatory time off, holiday time, and training and development needs). If we assume that there are 8,736 hours in a given year (24 hours X 7 days/week X 52 weeks), then a 40-hour work week equates to 2,080 hours/year less 360 hours of time away from work (e.g., leave, vacation, medical, etc). This leaves 1,720 hours of time available from one public safety officer (sworn or non-sworn). Dividing the number of hours of available time/person (1,720) into the total number of hours required of coverage (8,736 and absent other mitigating factors to be discussed next), we arrive at a staffing factor of 5.08. This figure translates into the following: to have a 1 person equivalent available 24/7 in the on-campus schedule requires 5.08 people in the staffing roster.

For the purposes of this analysis and based on experience and national discussions, we assume that the average time on a call for service is 30 minutes; this number is adjusted based on the data from a particular campus public safety agency. This number does not include officer initiated activities. We use campus public safety department records to determine averages of calls per shift; and time spent on calls for services, writing reports, and traveling to and from calls.

The watch-guard services of a campus public safety organization require public safety officers to tend to the physical security needs of the buildings and spaces on campus. Locking, unlocking and conducting building checks requires significant time allocation during a shift, and varies between shifts and the extent of the deployment of security technology (e.g., access control, perimeter alarms, security cameras). Day and evening shifts may require fewer building checks, while midnights more, and depending on the type of building (academic, research, administrative, residential).

This calculation factors in the amount of time assigned per shift to duties that are not reactive in nature. These are officer-initiated activities, crime prevention efforts, and general community policing activities.

By combining the Space Analysis with the Shift Activity Analysis through the MHA Bi-Dimensional Staffing Formula™, we can calculate current and projected public safety staffing needs for the desired level of public safety as indicated by the PSM. We can also determine the appropriate mix of sworn law enforcement, non-sworn security, and outsourced security guards. In short, we are able to map the size and complexity of the physical plant against the call volume of public safety demands to arrive at a well thought out staffing strategy. These calculations may be further refined through consideration of additional factors (such as technology that can decrease time spent on various activities) as necessary.

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