Question of the Day: Are Shrinking Police Budgets a Good Thing?

“Every morning, Gabriel Martinez slides a black 9-millimeter pistol into a leather holster over his jeans and thinks about his son,” nytimes.com reports. “Five-year-old Gabrielito was struck by a stray bullet when a man opened fire on Mr. Martinez’s taco truck in East Oakland on New Year’s Eve as Gabrielito played nearby . . . Before Gabrielito’s death, the men and women who operate the food trucks along International Boulevard, which slices through the heart of East Oakland, accepted the frequent robberies as a cost of doing business. But Gabrielito’s death has made many realize that the crime that endangers their businesses also endangers the dream of providing a better future for their families.” Local pols finger police cutbacks as the root of the problem. Maybe so. Or maybe it’s less police = more guns = less crime. Your thoughts? [h/t LeftShooter]

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About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

53 Responses to Question of the Day: Are Shrinking Police Budgets a Good Thing?

  1. avatarChris says:

    Honesty the police don’t stop crimes. The best they can do is interrupt them, but more often than not they show up well after the fact.

    The false sense of security they provide lulls some people into complacency, making them ripe targets for those who prey on the unaware and careless.

    If you know your going to be in the woods with bears, you take bear spray and hang your food because you know that no one else will save you from a bear.

    • avatarRabbi says:

      While police rarely stop crimes in progress, policing does act as a deterrent. The less cops, the more crime.

      • avatarDon Curton says:

        Depends. The more ATF, the more illegal guns, Apparently.

        There’s a rash of stories in the Houston area right now of cops being fired for committing rape, assault, theft, etc. Including the repeated rape of a small child.

        I know there’s bad apples in every bunch, but gee whiz.

      • avatarChris says:

        That seems like it should be true… I’d like to see some data to support it though.

      • avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

        Not entirely so easy.

        The style of policing makes a difference. There mere numbers of LEO’s in a department does not have as significant an impact on crime as what the police do with their discretion.

        This has been a subject of sociological and criminological research studies since the 80′s. There’s no clear “more cops -> less crime” causality that I’ve seen in papers. This is what was behind Wilson & Kelling’s paper on police discretion and what police did on the job that became known as the “broken windows theory” of policing, where you can have a large number of LEO’s on the job, but still have a rampant crime problem, as NYC did in the 80′s.

  2. avatarTom says:

    I thought all those gun control laws the Brady Bunch endorsed was going to solve all of these problems. After all, the State of California has been rated much safer than Indiana by the Brady Bunch.

  3. avatarST says:

    Indirectly.

    As a symptom of our nations’ shift to the left over the past decade and change, police agencies have grown in size and administrative aspects . The cycle starts with a harmonious rural community in America with lots of firearms, a pro-2A representative, and nearly no crime.

    Lightning lances across the sky as a liberal politican takes office and seeks to fix what was never broken, beginning with socially responsible gun control laws.Crime appropriately increases , leading to police requiring more money for control the outbreak in criminal activity. As the “age of Utopia” progresses taxes rise,more gun control laws are passed, crime continues to expand,and police require more beat cops to adress the outbreak,leading to more supervisory commands ,more supervisors and cheifs, and a larger bureaucracy being appointed to solve the ‘crime problem’.

    One day, utopia runs into a financial crisis and the liberal leadership has to choose between funding the police department and funding a welfare program.Bye Bye police budget, hello CCW.Crime finally begins to fall, as the sun comes out and the town begins to return to its peaceful past.

    • avatarCharlie says:

      “As a symptom of our nations’ shift to the left over the past decade and change, police agencies have grown in size and administrative aspects . The cycle starts with a harmonious rural community in America with lots of firearms, a pro-2A representative, and nearly no crime.”

      America must de-industrialize, de-third worldize, and re-masculinize. “Leftism” didn’t cause any of this. George Washington was the Ho Chi Minh of 1776. Repeal the 1965 Immigration Act, break corporate power, and create conditions that foster American patriotism. Cops will fall into line after.

      Bull Moose Progressivism, Jeffersonian Yeomanry, and Jackson-style bank fighting are needed. To find the truth we must return to the core of our being.

      • avatarihatetrees says:

        Repeal the 1965 Immigration Act…

        Excellent point, but it’ll never happen.
        This is one of the left’s gems that they’ll go to the mattresses over. The Democratic Party can’t build a socialist welfare state without importing legions of third world illiterates and all of their family members.

        • avatarRopingdown says:

          The point at which the political left and the corporations agree is total focus on GDP as an economic measure, rather than GDP per capita or Median Household Income. It is just like the counting of “jobs” as if 40,000 minimum wage jobs (in the statistics) were equivalent to 40,000 auto worker jobs or nursing jobs or Boeing assembly jobs. Nobody says a word. Nobody is paying attention.

        • avatarAccur81 says:

          We are.

        • avatarRopingdown says:

          Sorry. Good.

  4. avatarvirtualjohn says:

    “If 5% of the ducks could shoot back, you’re not going to go duck hunting”
    - Chuck Michel

  5. avatarKen West says:

    “Or maybe it’s less police = more guns = less crime.” Well, here are my thoughts. As a student of logic, there are some fairly flawed assumptions in your formula. Police are, by their nature, reactionary. They can react to crimes, it is very very difficult for a police officer to prevent a crime. In Oakland (and all of California) the ability to legally possess a firearm outside of the home is severely restricted.

    That said, just as guns do not make crimes happen, just as guns are merely tools by which criminals, police, and the average joe are able to do their jobs more effectively, guns do not prevent crime. An armed, capable, educated, prepared population prevents crime. Toothbrushes don’t prevent cavities. Spoons don’t make people fat. Behavior, education and preparedness do that. So, laws prohibiting the legal possession of firearms merely tip the scales to the balance of the criminals, who don’t care if they are breaking one more law. Guns are a tool for personal defense, but it is a behavioral and cultural war we are in the midst of here.

    Those who profit most (their coin may be power) from a disarmed populace are those who want a powerful state and the criminals themselves. A larger quantity guns will not equate to less or more crime. Who owns, possesses and is educated in their use, will tip that balance. In California, it is the State (Police) and criminals who have the easiest access to the best tool for personal protection. Both of those groups like it that way. Both can then exert control over the same population, the law abiding citizen. When the law abiding citizen is able to balance that power with both the criminal and the state, then there is less tyranny. But it isn’t about the number of guns. It is about which group has the larger distribution of the tools for defense/offense.

  6. avatarDave D. says:

    …Well Chris, police do stop some crimes, but their job is to stop criminals and gather evidence for their prosecution. And it’s through that action that California has 160,000 felons in prison. I was a motorcop in Oakland in the 70′s. I can tell you it’s a felon rich environment. I wish California was a must issue state and I value my retired CCW. But just shooting them, or at ‘em, or scaring them off, is only part of a solution. You gotta hunt them down and lock ‘em up. A CCW can’t do that. It’s not a case of CCW v. Cops. , that’s a false dichotomy.

    • avatarDon Curton says:

      The Po-po act as a deterrence by acting after the fact (reactive). CCW acts as a deterrence before the act (proactive). Simply put, if a would-be criminal decides NOT to rob me because I might be packing, then NO crime was committed and there’s no need for the po-po to chase him down and lock him up. Less crime, you see.

    • avatarChris says:

      This is an anecdotal observation. I’m up here in WA, where we’ve had more than a few cops killed. Three instances come to mind.

      One was a Seattle cop, shot and killed on Halloween.

      The second is the Lakewood coffee shop shooting.

      The third just happened recently, when a violent multiple felon killed a State Trooper.

      In all of these cases massive police round ups identified and captured or killed the killers in less than week.

      That’s awesome except that not what happens when some one who isn’t a cop gets shot.

      My observations is that the police are incredibly effective, but only when they have an interest in being effective.

      The last time I called the cops (violent assault with a firearm involved, I was the good guy) they took an hour and half to arrive. I asked why it took so long and they said it was because of a shift change. They said that they would arrest the perpetrator if I wanted them too, but that the courts were so backed up that nothing would come of it. they also suggested that then next time something like it happen, I just beat up the guy and not involve them.

      But don’t you DARE break the speed limit!

    • avatarAccur81 says:

      Well said. I understand, to a degree, the wariness of law enforcement on this site. However, I haven’t heard anything about handcuff usage on TTAG. It’s the police who handcuff the BG and take him to jail (usually at some point after the crime), the police (detectives and / or investigators) who write the report, prepare the case, and collect the evidence, the DA prosecutes, and the judge or jury who (hopefully) recognizes the merits of the arrests and decides guilt.

      • avatarChris says:

        And then set the criminal free to shoot up a coffee shop full of cops….

        • avatarCGinChicago says:

          I assume your talking about Maurice Clemmons, who’s sentence was commuted by Mike Huckabee. A politician not a P/O.

        • avatarChris says:

          Yes, as a response to a post about Judges and prosecutors…

          I could also be talking about Joshua Blake, a “rehabilitated” convict who went on to murder State Trooper Radulescu.

          The broader point being that there is little evidence that violent criminals are effectively deterred by the legal system.

          Nationally the recidivism rate of criminals is 70% within 3 years of release from prison.

          Something isn’t working and needs to change. More cops clearly isn’t the solution.

  7. avatarMr. Lion says:

    Less Cops + More Guns + Stand your ground laws = Less crime + more dead bad guys + less swaticides.

  8. avatarNate says:

    I would take the ability to own firearms, to use them when warranted, to carry them however I so choose, both in a vehicle and public, over having government police. Because they have yet to actually help me when I needed them.

    But I wouldn’t be opposed to voluntarily paying for a private security firm over locally funded law enforcement. The neighborhood could pay a small amount to privately owned security businesses to protect that particular neighborhood. This way the peace officers are directly accountable to the people they are supposed to protect. Also it will likely create a relationship with both as either do not want to lose money. The job may even pay more than a government position. Although you could argue for continuing to use tax funded detectives.

    Whereas public police have acquired a bad reputation and are almost completely looked at as not valuable. They are more worried about what politicians and their unions want. As long as they get their pay check at no great risk; the public is irrelevant. Generally speaking.

  9. avatarJohn says:

    If the reduced budgets mean fewer SWAT teams, fewer no-knock warrants killing people at the wrong house, fewer overblown salaries and pensions, fewer …

  10. avatarRandolphus Maximus says:

    People have to realize that, just like the courts have consistently ruled, the police are under no obligation to protect you or your family or your property. It would follow that shrinking government police budgets would not increase that obligation. In other words, if there were no government police at all or take it the opposite way, if there were a government police officer outside your and everyone of your neighbors doors. Your safety is still your responsibility not anyone elses.

    Therefore: No police = Police everywhere < more guns + more freedom (stand your ground laws, castle doctrine etc.)

  11. avatarCharlie says:

    A dwindling bankster population would do far more good. Police are fine when they know their role. The role of an equal citizen, with different duties…not a demigod in a black and white chariot.

  12. avatarGS650G says:

    If enough bad guys get laid out it would make a difference, but sadly there are just too many dirtbags and the laws do not favor DGU or even the notion of it.

  13. avatarRopingdown says:

    It’s an entertaining spectacle if you have an appreciation for theater of the absurd: As a nation “we” spent profligately on wars, expensive treatments for preventable disease and injury, social security retirement benefits that have little link to contributions, bizarre end-of-life medical interventions, and every form of educational innovation (Head Start, Pell Grants for endless Psych majors, etc.). We hired more LEO’s, built more prisons, and approved a remarkable set of “spy on everything and everyone” laws. We very nearly have eliminated the death penalty for wanton murder and brutal maiming. End result? Massive forced austerity. The generation that paid for the ‘Silent Generation’ has nothing but the debt and less opportunity to show for it. And the burden of administering the death penalty has fallen onto the shoulders of those in the process of being violently victimized by the carjacker, mugger, and home invader. What a round trip!

  14. avatarRalph says:

    Are shrinking police budgets a good thing? No.

    What do you think is being cut? SWAT, no. Extravagant gadgets that do nothing to help the citizens, no. Political programs to advance our rulers’ agendas, no. Political “outreach” programs to fund gangs and pet leftist projects, no. Protection for small businesses and citizens, yes.

    There’s more fat than muscle in government budgets, but the fat never gets cut. The program is: cut the muscle, hope for crime to increase, use it as a pretext to get more money and spend it on political projects, and so on forever.

    Fortunately, my ammo budget has not been cut.

    • avatarRopingdown says:

      My ammo budget received a fiscal-year increase above inflation, due to the zeroing of my new firearms allowance. I have to face it: My safe is full. This is nature’s way of telling me to focus on range time and fitness. Freak fact: I have people coming out of the woodwork asking me for gun advice, how to get a CCW permit, etc. Tennis partners. Physicians. I think it has to do with the new civil liability immunity rule in recent PA law. They’re all people with something to lose who’d been sitting on the fence for that reason. “Kill me, but don’t kill my money!” Laugh.

      • avatarRalph says:

        As an outspoken gunny and NRA/MA instructor, I’m also getting a lot of inquiries and comments from people who would have been appalled at the mere thought of firearms a few years ago.

        A couple of week ago on a visit to my urologist for a routine exam, he asked what I do and I told him. I was concerned because this was the same guy who was soon to check my prostate, if you get my meaning. I was very relieved when he started talking like he was Wayne LaPierre Jr. This from a 55 year old Chinese-American weewee doctor who’s never owned a gun in his life.

        I know that something’s happening but I don’t know what it is. . . .

        • avatarRopingdown says:

          Or, Mr. Jones… ‘there’s something happenin’ here, what is ain’t exactly clear.’ Maybe people are reacting to the implications of the ‘big divide’ and the implications of a 15 (or your best guess) trillion debt? I really don’t know, but I see it among smart functional people. Whatever it is, it isn’t the old “gun and a bible” central PA thing (of which I have no criticisms). It’s something different.

        • avatarMark N. says:

          Can’t skip the nextline: “There’s a man with a gun over there, tellin’ me I got to beware…”

        • avatarRopingdown says:

          Was tryin’ to hold back. laugh. “What a field day for the heat. A thousand people are in the street, singin’ songs an a carryin’ signs, mostly sayin’ hooray for our side.”

          “I don’t know what’s behind so many professionals asking about what gun to buy and how. That’s my story, an’ I’m stickin’ to it.” laugh.

        • avatarLeftshooter says:

          Ralph,

          “I know that something’s happening but I don’t know what it is. . . .”

          As you know, I am also an NRA/MA instructor and I am getting many of the same inquiries from surprising sources, including, coincidently, from my MGH urologist and his female intern. To be honest, it also concerns me somewhat, in that I’m not sure if the wind is just changing direction or if a storm is brewing. One is fine, the other may not be.

          On a lighter note:

          “A couple of weeks ago on a visit to my urologist for a routine exam, he asked what I do and I told him. I was concerned because this was the same guy who was soon to check my prostate, if you get my meaning.”

          This made me think of when Tony Soprano said “I don’t even let anybody wag their finger in my face.” Gosh, I miss Tony. He must have died from prostate cancer.

           

      • avatarMadDawg J says:

        “I have to face it: My safe is full. This is nature’s way of telling me to” buy another safe.

  15. avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    Police budgets will be cut, they have to be cut and what has to be cut are the numbers of FTE’s in police departments.

    The simple, mathematical truth is that the tax revenues in many states and communities can no longer support the defined benefit pension plans for public employees, especially so police and fire departments, where employees are apt to retire at ages much younger than 65.

    • avatarST says:

      As Ralph cogently explained above, when police budgets are cut the first thing to go is overtime, extra training ( read less range time), equipment maintenance and replacement, and reduction in priority of cases. When the money is rolling in the police can afford to respond to vehicle break ins and assaults, but when the cash runs dry anything less than a dead body gets hold music. A dirty secret about 911 is that sometimes your wait times will be longer than a phone call to your bank’s call center.

      As for the police charities, the cheif’s aid projects, the premium retirement package for ranking officers, senior level pay raises,brand new squad cars for the sherrif ( as the patrol units drive 12 year old Fords) , those waste of taxpayer dollars will never be cut.

      • avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

        Cutting overtime, training, etc will not solve or even touch the defined benefit pension problem.

        The only alternatives that solve the pension problems are:

        1. Go to a tiered retirement system, where the defined bennies approach is limited to employees within “X” years of retirement, where “X” is a small number.

        2. Increase payroll deductions from employees to fund the pension(s).

        3. Re-negotiate the pension packages.

        4. Cut FTE’s down to a number that can draw upon the accumulated money in the pension fund and not cause actuarial failure of the pension.

        5. As we’re starting to see in several cities now, the municipality can go into bankruptcy and a court or court-appointed master will re-set the pension package liabilities.

        In many communities, their political leadership fails to lead. They’ve heavily invested in giving public employees everything they’ve wanted for years, and now the bill is coming due.

        For evidence of what I speak, I give you Stockton, California:

        http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/03/04/MNPQ1NFBCS.DTL

        NB the actions of the police union. They’re following a pattern we see all over the nation. If they don’t get their benefits and pay package, they’ll threaten the residents of their jurisdiction with non-action, ie, increases in crime.

        For this reason alone, I believe that these police departments should be fired, en mass. This behavior amounts to nothing less than racketeering, and it is illegal.

      • avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

        Apropos of what happens when a city goes into BK, here’s the results from Vallejo, CA:

        http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/03/04/BADM1NFGLH.DTL&type=newsbayarea

        NB the drastic cuts in FTE’s for the police and fire departments.

        That’s the consequence of unsustainable defined benefit pension packages that are underfunded.

        Another thing that will come to bear on this problem is the shrinking yields in the bond markets, thanks to the Fed warping the yield curve to favor the bankster’s corrupt balance sheets. The assumption was California (and many other state-managed public employee pension funds) before 2008 was that they could achieve 7.75% returns on their investments year-over-year with low risk.

        As an example of what specious nonsense this is, CalPERS reported that their returns last year were 1.1%.

        As I said above: the mathematics of this situation are inescapable.

  16. avatarfreeport56 says:

    When I first moved to Oakland in December of 92′ you could hear the automatic weapons fire from West Oakland from my apartment. Oakland’s police force was much bigger then. They now have 600 and change police officers, not enough for a city of 300,000. Oakland has one of the worst crime rates in America. Style and numbers do make a difference, but, California cities are broke due to the high cost of retirement benefits.

    The same unions we depend on for public safety are also draining the coffers with no end in site. CA is $1 trillion in debt, you can see Greece from CA.

  17. avatarMark N. says:

    more police presence = less crime, more CCWs = less crime, more guns therefore = less crime. It doesn’t matter whose gun it is, yours or the cops’, just the presence of the gun. True, cops are usually reactive to crime–unless they happen to be patrolling the neighborhood on foot or cruising it regularly in their cars.

  18. avatarNCG says:

    “As a symptom of our nations’ shift to the left over the past decade and change…” WTF! Please provide examples of how our nation has shifted to the left. And don’t say Obamacare, it’s just a mechanism to shift more working people’s money to Wall Street via insurance companies. It is bad policy, but it is not leftist policy in any real sense. In fact, our nation has been moving steadily to the right for the past fifty years, and especially since Reagan. If Dwight Eiesenhower were to run for President today, he’d lose the DEMOCRATIC primary because he’s too liberal. This golden, post-WWII era which those on the right love to look back to (ignoring Jim Crow, etc.) was the peak of Liberalism in America – high corporate tax revenues, high marginal tax rates, strong unions, large government investment in infratstructure. If LBJ hadn’t so completely blown it by getting us mired in Vietnam, we would have had single payer healthcare – that was the intention with Medicare.

    If you want to argue that leftist policies make us a bunch of eunochs, fine, but they vague blaming every societal problem on the “liberals” gets tiresome.

    Crime is most directly related to poverty and hopelessness, and there’s plenty of crime in poor rural communities, relative to population density. Where there is poverty, especially in situations of great inequality, there will be crime.

    • avatarNCG says:

      That said, I think more police=less crime up to a point, but police behaving like an occupying army – staying in their cars, heavily armed, seldom interacting with the community unless it’s to kick some ass – doesn’t help much. I’ll agree with Ralph about all the SWAT BS and gadgets – now drones, even.

      A good thing about CCW, is that people carrying are actually a part of their communities, not an unwanted, often violent and capricious authority figure, whose number one priority is maintaining dominance. Also armed citizens aren’t in the position of having to enforce unenforceable drug laws, etc. Generally, an armed citizen is only going to act in the case of violent crime. So definitely, fewer cops, more armed citizens, less violent crime.

    • avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      The advocates of the “poverty equals crime” can never seem to explain why rates of violent crime in the were so much lower during the Depression, when real poverty stalked the land, nor why murder rates went down during the Depression years.

      http://www.jrsa.org/programs/Historical.pdf

      • avatarNCG says:

        You have a point. Maybe poverty=crime is an oversimplification. I think inequality is more the issue. The roaring twenties were a heyday of bandit capitalism, and prohibition caused a ton of violence. Look at Mexico today. When you have very few super-wealthy haves and growing numbers of have-nots, there’s going to be trouble.

        Also, during the depression, FDR’s WPA and other projects helped to put a lot of people to work at at least subsistence wages.

        Finally, a much larger portion of our population still lived in farming communities. My grandfather told me stories of growing up in the 30s in deep East Texas. Nobody had any cash whatsoever, but a lot of people owned their land, or had low rents, and there was a strong sense of community. They ate a lot of squirrel, kept chickens etc., and every week or what have you, one family would slaughter a pig or less often a steer, and everyone would share. Everybody had kitchen gardens in addition to their cash crops, which brought precious little cash. That’s a lot harder to do in modern Oakland, although that ethic is coming back in Detroit, which is a center of radical urban food production.

        • avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

          On this, we agree.

        • avatarRopingdown says:

          Complicated, ain’t it? In the thirties the enemy was the big eastern industrial cartels, the international trade collapse, and the the New York Bankers. People genuinely felt sorry for the unemployed. Today many of the “victims” seem like people who overpaid for houses bigger than they needed or who refinanced imprudently, together with the banks that waltzed them into debt and then sold on the loans to deceived investors. The so-called “rich” that can be resented are closer by, in the next suburb, and they’re getting uncomfortable. Obama keeps talking about redistributing their stuff. Few have any land to garden. And then China cuts off hope…endless cheaper labor. And then we’ve got the whole drug thing going, and Mexico in a shooting war which the gangsters seem to be winning. And, what the heck, to finish the song that mike N. wouldn’t leave alone:
          “Paranoia strikes deep
          Into your life it will creep
          It starts when you’re always afraid
          You step out of line, the man come and take you away (or take your job, or your house, or your 401(K)….or your defensive arms….
          We paid LEO’s more and more, and spent more and more on education, Pell Grants, put affirmative action in place, let Medicare go through the roof….and somehow it doesn’t seem to have worked because it turns out we did most of that stuff on the cuff. We know we have big employment problems, infrastructure problems, banker problems BUT we also know we are starting 15 trillion in the hole. That was not the case in the 1930′s. People know it can’t last, but no one knows what that means. I don’t. What comes next? Left-wing demagoguery? Right-wing deflationary austerity? People fear change and hate uncertainty. That includes me.

        • avatarNCG says:

          I lean towared a lefty solution, you lean toward a righty solution. I think either one might work, but too many people profit from our loss. The elites think in terms of a zero-sum game, in spite of their rhetoric to the contrary. Commie elites, capitalist elites, it makes little difference. I am an economic populist first and foremost – people who actually work and produce things should get their fair share. People born to wealth might have to take a small haircut. The fact that a lefty, anti-war anthem is being quoted here says something.

        • avatarRopingdown says:

          I’ve long hoped for a middle solution, but I don’t have many that agree. I feel, year after year, that we get looted by the right (bankers, mil-industrial) and the left (forced to pay for personally-preventable problems). As I forlornly say to my friends, “I want a balanced budget. I don’t care who wins what in a given year. Just don’t spend next year’s revenue this year for anything we’re going to have to pay for again next year.” Yeah, good luck with that, right?

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