Last Thursday at 2:30am, someone triggered my house alarm. Given the tactical challenges involved, I decided to let the police respond. After five minutes, I switched off the alarm. I waited, armed, sleeping schnauzer at my feet, for the police. Fifteen minutes later, a Deputy arrived. She did a solo 360 perimeter check with her Maglite and called it good. As did I. The response time didn’t bother me. It would be nice if it was faster, but taxes, staffing levels and whatnot. More to the point, there’s a downside to hiring more cops. Remember the Dorner fiasco . . .
The study’s authors also found that too many officers raced to the scene when authorities had Dorner holed up in a cabin in the San Bernardino Mountains, creating a dangerous situation and making narrow mountain roads nearly impassable for the SWAT teams in charge.
“Witnesses said hundreds of law enforcement officers responded to the scene, some from over 100 miles away. Valuable time was wasted managing the vast number of ill-prepared police officers who left the much warmer coastal and inland climates of Southern California for the extreme cold of a mountain ski resort at 7,000-foot altitude,” the authors said. “As one chief of police would later declare, ‘I had no business going up there.'”
A turf war between police in Irvine and Riverside County sheriff’s officials over who would do forensics analysis on Dorner’s abandoned and burnt-out truck also delayed the investigation into the killings of Dorner’s first two victims, a retired LAPD captain’s daughter and her fiance.
A rare bit of truth from officer.com. Don’t get me wrong. Police are a critical part of our defense against criminal predation. If the miscreants who attempted to jimmy my door had hung around, I would have been deeply grateful for the arrival of an armed Deputy and her backup (as needed). Besides, someone’s got to clean up the mess, if you know what I mean.
But the point remains: police militarization isn’t just a matter of militarized tactics. It’s also a matter of too many police officers – local, state and federal. Period. Incidents like the Dorner debacle and the Boston Marathon martial law meltdown show us that more can be less when it comes to policing.
How many LEOs are we talking about, anyway? justice.uaa.alaska.edu reports that “1.1 million persons are employed on a full-time basis by state and local law enforcement in this country in 2008. Of that number, about 765,000 were sworn personnel—which is defined as those with general arrest powers.” On the federal level, I couldn’t find raw numbers, but I did find this at discoverpolicing.org
There are 65 federal agencies and 27 offices of inspector general that employ full time personnel authorized to make arrests and carry firearms. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2004 the largest employers of Federal officers were U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Federal Bureau of Prisons, the FBI, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, each with over 10,000 officers. Federal officers’ duties include police response and patrol, criminal investigation and enforcement, inspections, security and protection, court operations, and corrections.
Too much? Or do I have this wrong? Are U.S. police forces understaffed and under-appreciated?