The shrinking of Sacramento's police force has been extreme; the department has lost more than 300 sworn officers and civilian staff members and more than 30 percent of its budget since 2008.

But at a time when many cities are curtailing essential services like policing—the Los Angeles Police Department said last week that it could lay off 160 civilian employees by Jan. 1—the cutbacks in this sprawling city of 472,000 offer a window on the potential consequences of such economizing measures, criminal justice experts say.

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