Teaching Case - Cutting Costs in Financial Hard Times: Two Massachusetts Towns Consider a Police Merger

Cutting Costs in Financial Hard Times: Two Massachusetts Towns Consider a Police Merger


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  • Product Description

    When local governments face budget pressures, one approach is to regionalize services--—that is, to seek out greater economies of scale by consolidating service delivery with other municipalities. This case describes the effort of two small (though well-heeled) Massachusetts towns to explore a police merger during the financial recession of 2009. The towns of Hamilton and Wenham, located north of Boston in the “North Shore” area, had, in the past, successfully consolidated school systems, libraries, recreation departments, and more. By some calculations, the towns stood to save a significant amount of money by merging police forces. Ultimately, however, they decided against it. The case includes partly conflicting data from several studies that estimate the financial impact of a police merger.

    Learning Objective:
    By telling the story of two towns, their history of collaboration, the issues that arose in considering a police merger, and the reasons the idea was ultimately abandoned, the case invites students to think about the role of the police in a community and about competing values— the concrete benefit of cost savings vs. the more ephemeral importance of preserving local identity, culture, and control. It was designed for an executive education program for leaders in state and local government.

  • Other Details

    Publication Date: July 18, 2013
    HKS Case Number: 1998.0
    Case Author: Pamela Varley
    Faculty Lead: David King
    Pages (incl. exhibits): 21
    Setting: United States
    Language: English
    _year: 2010-2015
    _pages: 16-25
    _geography: US & Canada
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