Saturday, June 20, 2020

Policing budgets and outcomes: A Catch 22

Viewed broadly, America finds itself essentially at the bottom of a thirty-year crime decline. But as police have had less crime to respond to, their budgets and staffing have ballooned, reported Politico this week.

Police officials routinely tell the public that cutting their budgets would make us less safe. This is true even at agencies that had their budgets increase and saw crime rise.

Indeed, have you ever noticed that, when it comes to police budgets, there's no version of reality that would justify reduced funding?

If crime is going up, we're told we need more officers to address it.

If crime goes down, it's attributed to past budget increases and we're told cutting budgets would reverse progress.

The whole process resembles a self licking ice cream cone. To hear the police chiefs and city managers tell it, there apparently is no situation that justifies applying budget scrutiny to these agencies. 


Charles Kuffner said...

I mean, this has been the exact same logic used by Rick Perry and Greg Abbott for funding "border security" over the past 15 years or so. When something works, you stick with it.

Anonymous said...

A self-licking ice cream cone! I am so stealing this!! Grits, you're my hero and this made my day. But yeah, to get back on topic, you're absolutely right that there is no scenario in which LE would concede to reducing their budget.

gravyrug said...

It appears Facebook has blocked your URL. I guess the police unions have been complaining?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I have no idea what's going on with Facebook. I don't use it anymore, but some days ppl tell me my links aren't working on it, others they say "Oh, it's fine now." I don't have a clue what's happening there.

Anonymous said...

A few thoughts from the front row seats by a former officer in a small to mid-sized agency.

Crime stats are too easy to fudge. Victim reports X, but since they do not want to pursue charges or there is no identifiable suspect, the crime is reported as Y so as not to reflect negatively on the department. It can work both ways depending on the story the chief wants to tell.

During budget time, chiefs will claim their officers struggle to keep up with increasing call volume and need more officers on patrol to keep the citizens safe, blah, blah. Meanwhile, they maintain and increase the ranks of "specialized" units (k9, street narcotics, traffic enforcement, community cops, etc), especially if funding is increased. These units are often cush jobs for the admin's good ol' boy club, particularly in smaller departments. They do not respond to calls as part of their everyday duties and cannot show much production to justify their existence outside of what value the chief places on their existence to the elected officials. The patrol officers are always shorthanded and overworked. This produces massive turnover and low morale, and if you ask me, becomes a contributing factor to misconduct. Since the guys in the specialized groups are juiced in, there is little or no hope for advancement. There was a department near where I worked that had a force of around 40 officers. More than half were in assignments that were not considered first responders.

In light of push to outsource certain calls into the call center to other social service agencies perhaps more well suited to the issue at hand, departments are going to be hard pressed to claim a call for service stat if that happens. Fewer documented calls for service means problems when trying to justify more funding. Be careful to watch how departments handle these changes. It would not surprise me that a call slip would be generated on these diverted calls to have an officer on stand-by a few blocks away "in case something happens" just so they can claim the stat.

This type of mismanagement is hard to uncover in smaller jurisdictions particularly when no one wants to be painted as "anti police."

Hope you are recovering well.

Joshua Kumler said...

Texas Tribune reports today that over 100 Houston police officers are in quarantine after contracting the virus.

Seems like it could make for an interesting natural experiment. If 100 fewer officers are in the field, and there's no impact on crime or clearance rates, do we really need those positions filled?

Anonymous said...

Don't forget departments in Texas use actual detectives to run the sex offender registration office. Does it take an armed and licensed peace officer to update someone's home address and take their picture? Of course it doesn't, especially since those same offenders are then going to wait in line at DPS to update the same information on their drivers license with an hourly clerk. (SO licenses are only valid for one year, being a pervert impairs your ability to drive)