There are two political explanations for the country’s economic malaise, and the resulting cutbacks in police officers: Government Gone Wild and It’s All George Bush’s fault. To help get your blood flowing, let’s Bush bash first. “Ten years ago today, the first round of Bush tax cuts became law. But what if they hadn’t?” asks the two Michaels at americanprogressive.com. “What . . . if we’d never implemented President George W. Bush’s eponymous tax policies?
The short answer is that the debate over federal debt levels would be entirely different. In that alternate world, total debt as a share of GDP would be under 50 percent this year—instead of pushing 70 percent—and it would be expected to stay under 60 percent for the rest of the decade. (see chart) That’s well below the levels causing such great consternation in Washington.
And now the alternative . . .
The City of Providence pays out more in overtime than cities of a similar size in the Northeast, a Target 12 analysis reveals.
According to financial records supplied by Providence Mayor Angel Taveras’ office, the Providence Police Department budgeted $3.8 million to cover overtime costs in 2010-11. That is more than double the amount of overtime dished out by the police department in Springfield, Mass., which has only seven fewer officers but budgeted $1.6 million.
Providence currently has 469 officers to Springfield’s 462. Census figures show Providence had about 15,000 more residents than the Western Massachusetts city as of last year.
Worcester, Mass., which has a slightly larger population (181,045) expects to spend $2.8 million on overtime for its police department. New Haven, Conn. (population 130,000), with a police force of 433, budgeted $2.9 million in overtime in 2011 . . .
A call to the Fraternal Order of Police, the union representing the Providence Police Officers, was not immediately returned.
In fact, the Providence po-po is the second largest police force in New England, period. Interesting that Channel 12 compares Providence Police overtime to other public union-controlled northeastern cities. Why not compare the Renaissance City’s guardians’ overtime to large cities without a unionized police force? Like . . . uh . . . so . . . what about police pensions? Health care?
Providence taxpayers also chip in for an officer’s pension plan, health and dental care and life insurance. According to City Hall, the average patrolman comes with a price tag of $122,640, and the average police captain comes with a price tag of $185,641. (Those figures exclude money officers get for details, because those are often paid for by private companies.)
Beside base pay, the most costly element to the taxpayer is retirement benefits. On average, the city pays $38,899 into a patrolman’s pension plan and $58,122 into a captain’s.
Yes, what of those details? How much does a cop get for standing around and how much does it impinge on City time? Never mind. That extortion is paid privately; it drives up the price of private construction, utilities and such. Not a tax issue.
Speaking of which, the City of Providence’s fiscal longstanding fiscal chickens are coming home to roost. Here’s a press release decades in the making . . .
“After laying off 10% of the City’s non-union staff, closing six schools, terminating teachers, and asking taxpayers to accept a significant increase in property taxes, we now must make the difficult decision to reduce our police force. We have not taken this action lightly and it was with a heavy heart today that we delivered the news to the men and women who so proudly serve the City of Providence. Unfortunately, we simply must realize these cost savings to save our City from fiscal collapse,” said Mayor Angel Taveras . . .
“I have instructed Police Department leadership to make necessary adjustments to patrols and assignments to ensure that the number of officers patrolling the streets of Providence remains as consistent as possible under these circumstances. Keeping Providence safe for residents and visitors remains a top priority for the administration, and we will manage this difficult transition carefully, with all energies focused on maintaining the highest standards of public safety in Providence,” said Pare.
Providence is not the first city forced to reduce its police force in response to budget crisis. Other cities taking similar action include San Jose, CA (106 positions eliminated), Houston, Texas (181 positions eliminated), Cleveland, OH (150 positions eliminated), Camden, NJ (163 positions eliminated), Patterson, NJ (125 positions eliminated), Cincinnati, OH (144 positions eliminated), among others.
Which brings me to my main point: police cutbacks may be “forcing” citizens to (once again) assume responsibility for their own self-defense. This trend could well be the “hidden” dynamic underpinning the recent surge in concealed carry permits, support for the right to carry a concealed weapon and (of course) handgun sales.
Thanks to a lawsuit by one Jim Archer, Providence has recently resumed issuing conceal carry permits—after a fifty-year hiatus. So far, the capitol city of a shall issue state has created 20 concealed carry permits. When that changes, a sea change it will be. All it will take is a few headline violent crimes.
Unless, that is, residents find a way to, once again, to restore their governmental wet nurse’s paycheck. Like . . . raise taxes. Comedy is easy. Releasing a lip lock on the communal tit is hard.