Saturday, October 25, 2008

Smart policies can boost police coverage even in a bad economy

CNN had a story this week that I'm sure we'll be seeing much more frequently titled, "Police face cuts as economy falters." According to CNN:
U.S. police departments are streamlining patrols, reducing training and cutting back on some preventative programs as their budgets fall victim to the struggling economy.

Many police chiefs are warning deeper cuts may be coming. ...

A poll of 200 departments during the summer by the Police Executive Research Forum, which studies law enforcement trends, reported 39 percent of respondents said their operating budgets were cut because of the economy and 43 percent said the faltering economy had affected their ability to deliver services.
The Plano, TX Police Department was one of the examples cited - they're leaving vacant officer positions unfilled to save money.

This problem will likely only get worse, but there are two easy fixes Texas departments can implement to keep more officers on the street during the coming economic crunch:

First, more departments should embrace new discretion granted by the Legislature last year to give citations instead of arresting for low-level misdemeanors. In Austin, for example, 37% of all arrestees entering jail are there on charges for which they could have received a citation. That takes officers off the street to handle petty offenses and effectively reduces the number of cops on patrol.

In addition, cities could greatly increase their police coverage by requiring private security companies to do "verified response" before sending officers to react to alarms. As many as 99% of alarm calls are false alarms, and even when a crime did occur, typically the offender is long gone by the time police get there.

In some jurisdictions like Plano and Richardson, police spend more time responding to false burglar alarms than any other departmental function. Plano PD in particular spends about 10% of its officers' time annually responding to false alarms.

So implementing verified response would be the equivalent of increasing the size of their police force by as much as 10%, while using citations for low-level offenses would keep an even greater proportion of officers out on the street to perform more important tasks.

There's little doubt the economic downturn will affect law enforcement agencies' ability to hire more officers in the near future, so it's more critical than ever that officials use police resources wisely. These two ideas would supplement police coverage at no cost to the taxpayers. In fact, both would save taxpayers money while putting more cops on the street - truly a win-win scenario.


Anonymous said...

Now just think. Think of the estimated one trillion dollars spent since 1968 on the wasteful, ineffective, racist and civil liberties-destroying DrugWar.

Now think about what else could have been done with that money. That we'll never have to spend ever, ever again. All thanks to a bunch of long-dead racist crackers hiding behind their Bibles That is, when they weren't reading tracts on the not-so-Christian ideology of eugenics.

Ignorance, racial bigotry, pseudoscience, self-righteousness that would make a Pharisee blush in shame, and political opportunism make up the history of the DrugWar from it's very inception. And now the bill for all that has come due, without anything to show for it but prisons that we can't afford to staff, much less fill. And the self-appointed moral proctor drug prohibitionists are to thank for all that.

Anonymous said...

When you name call it makes your comments so legitimate.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post Grits and two viable solutions you mentioned.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately the cities that have tried verified response had to go back to the old way after much lobbying from the alarm companies and whining from the citizenry.

Alarm companies much prefer to make their money using a tax payer funded service to do their job.

Anonymous said...

Anon 05:16, does it make you feel any better if I called them 'false Christian racist bigots'?

The fact of the matter is there is a strong link early in the last century between American Protestant missionaries seeking converts in Asia and the beginning of the drug laws.

The idea was that to convert the 'heathen Chinee' (or any other 'degenerate race' as Harry Anslinger so lovingly described anyone non-White) to Christianity you first had to get him to put down his opium pipe. It was as simple, and as simply wrong-headed, as that.

The DrugWar was founded in large part upon racism. Its' progenitors saw it as nothing less than an exercise in eugenics: the 'superior' (and nominally Christian) race would prevail over all.

Needless to say, they saw Whites as occupying that position. Anything they deemed might threaten that position - such as drug usage - would lead to 'degeneracy' and 'miscegenation' and a host of other eugenic no-no's.

Needless to say, a lot of these people considered themselves 'Good Christians' doing the 'Lord's Work'. And for that we've been saddled with a horrific mess of a DrugWar for a century. One that's largely responsible for the diminution of our rights, and the rise of the mechanism for potential Federal fascism in the 'drug exceptions' to the Bill of Rights.

The horribly misnamed PATRIOT Act didn't just appear like magic out of nowhere; all the democracy destroying attributes it has were first tested in the DrugWar.

So...I point the finger where history says it should be pointed, at those who claimed to be Christians but acted like Pharisees. Their counterparts today are no less blinded by their self-righteousness and their hypocrisy...and no less dangerous because of it, as these people would attest, if they were alive to do so.

FleaStiff said...

Citation rather than arrest?
Whats the fun in that?
Many arrests are for the psychological gratification of the officer and he is not going to have much fun knowing someone who disrespected him is carrying an extra ounce of paper. Its knowing the man has been taken to jail, subjected to degrading procedures and kept in a noisy and fairly dangerous lockup until making bail that gives a reward to the officer.

As to reducing the number of cops on patrol, cops have been trying to patrol but not do any work for eons. The only time a cop really wants do some work is as his shift is about to end so he can get some overtime! Just ride a train thru an urban area, you are likely to see zillions of cop cars parked at shuttered factories along the track. They are listening to the radio but not doing much else. Why drive around and actually do something? And if they need an excuse, well filling in paperwork back at the station house sure beats being out there and doing something.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Fleastiff, these days "patrol" frequently means just running from one 911 call to the next - that's why eliminating responses to false alarms would help make officers less overstretched and reduce 911 response times.

olnacl - I know that happened in Dallas but verified response is in place in other parts of the country and works quite well.

Anonymous said...


Didn't say i disagreed with you on the drug issue. I just think that trying to win an argument by name calling right out of the gate turns most readers off and keeps them from reading your entire comment or following your links.

Trying to convince the conservative right that the drug war does not work by using terms like "racist" and attacking a predominant ideology in the U.S. isn't going to help.

Take a hint from Grits. He is not always on my side of the issues, but he makes his case with class and backs it up.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"he makes his case with class and backs it up."

Aw ... shucks! (Blushing) What a nice thing to say, thanks!