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For at least forty years, police budgets have been going up. From GovTech:
All sorts of needed city services are starved for funding, but we keep spending a huge and ever-growing amount on policing. Luke Darby in GQ writes:
There’s little evidence, if any, to suggest that more police actually correlates to fewer crimes—and more aggressive policing, like so-called “broken windows” policing and New York’s stop-and-frisk policy, seems to only increase arrests for extremely minor offenses while stoking violent interactions between police and minorities. Yet the hard numbers show that public officials have favored police department funding over public health and other concerns.
Los Angeles is a prime example: Mayor Eric Garcetti’s 2020-2021 city budget gives police $3.14 billion out of the city’s $10.5 billion. That’s the single biggest line item, dwarfing, say, emergency management ($6 million) and economic development ($30 million). Garcetti is also planning to raise the LAPD’s budget by 7 percent—to support bonuses for officers who have a college degree—while he’s also trying to institute pay cuts for more than 24,000 civilian city workers (to cope with budgetary fallout from the coronavirus outbreak).
In New York, which has the largest budget for any police department in the country, Mayor Bill de Blasio has called to reduce the NYPD’s budget by $23.8 million—a step in the right direction, but only 0.4 percent of the department’s $5 billion budget. As Brooklyn College sociology professor Alex Vitale writes in the New York Post, “New York City spends more on policing than it does on the Departments of Health, Homeless Services, Housing Preservation and Development, and Youth and Community Development combined.”
More money for cops is less money for everything else – including some measures that might improve society and make police less necessary.
This was fun to draw. I de-emphasized drawing backgrounds so I could devote more time to drawing people – there are about 20 figures in this cartoon, which is a lot for me.
I had a particularly nice time drawing panel four. My favorite is the cop who is doing John Travolta’s famous finger-up pose from Saturday Night Fever.
TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON
(New drinking game! Every time I make a typo, take a drink. Don’t play this game if you have to drive later.)
This cartoon has four panels. Each panel shows a different scene, and has a different color palette.
This panel, drawing with an orange-ish palette, shows a woman talking on the phone, looking a little panicked. Beside her, a wide-eyed child watches, looking very worried. Above them both is a large caption, in big green letters.
CAPTION: HOW CITY BUDGETS WORK
WOMAN: A six year waiting list? But we’re homeless now!
This panel is colored in shades of purple.
A middle-aged woman wearing glasses and a striped dress is talking to a middle-aged man wearing a suit and tie. She looks wide-eyed and worried; he looks angry, glaring into space as he talks.
Behind them we can see a big window; various shapes (a banana, an apple, flowers, a star) have been cut out of paper and taped to the window. In front of them, we see mostly the heads and faces of a crowd of children, variously talking, smiling, making a peace sign, and dozing off (with a bit of drool).
WOMAN: But we can’t fit another 30 chairs into this classroom!
MAN: Chairs? City Hall says kids can stand.
This panel is colored in very dreary shades of green.
We are looking through a doorway at a man with slightly shaggy hair, who sits unhappily at a cheap rectangular table in an otherwise empty room. Outside the room, leaning back as if he’s just calling something into the room while rushing past, a man wearing glasses and a jacket and tie, talks to the shaggy-haired man.
RUSHING MAN: Hi! I’m your public defender. Unfortunately, I’ve been assigned so many defendants that introducing myself is all the time I have for your case this month.
RUSHING MAN: See you at your trial!
This panel is colored in shades of blue, except for the cash, which is colored in green.
A group of cops is dancing merrily while grinning. One cop waggles his midsection; one imitates John Travolta’s disco pose from “Saturday Night Fever”; a couple dances in a pair, arms on each other’s shoulders; a few others are kicking and throwing their arms up into the hair. It’s a celebration. Green cash is filling the air, raining down on them.
COPS (said by several in unison): MONEY DANCE!
If you think that your local police departments are doing a money dance you don’t know any cops. Ask them about the condition of their patrol cars and other equipment. Ask them about the number of officers they have and how often they have to cancel days off on short notice and work 12-hour shifts on multiple consecutive days because there aren’t enough cops, especially when there are major civic events or when political protests turn into riots. If police departments are so flush with money that the cops are doing a money dance you wouldn’t see so many quitting. Ask the business owners on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile (Chicago’s high-end retail district) who are seeing gangs freely running into their shops and stealing goods in broad daylight – and get told by the Mayor that they need to
stop wearing such short skirtsstop displaying their goods so openly.
It seems that the White House also thinks that at least some police departments are underfunded and that it is a causative factor in the increase in crime. From Monday’s White House news conference:
I’d love to follow up that statement by asking “Can you identify any specific major police departments you think are underfunded?”
Which rather goes against the narrative (which some on the right believe, but I don’t know if you do, Ron) that Biden is a leftist, or in thrall to the left.
It is not surprising to me at all that Democrats are split on the issue of police funding.
Talking about curbing gun violence through increased policing is backwards. Most guns are legal in the U.S., so the police don’t get involved until someone gets shot. It is too late then. We need to talk about the huge number of guns out there in the hands of completely untrained people, some of whom have even already proven themselves to be violent. If we didn’t require drivers licenses, and even allowed people we knew had driven drunk to continue driving, what do you think would happen to the rate of traffic accidents?
More on topic, I’d like to see some segment of the police department replaced by trained social workers and medical personnel separate from the police department (maybe incorporated into fire departments, which are already first responders to medical emergencies) to respond to things like wellness checks, people in psychiatric distress, domestic disputes and the like. My understanding is that these are things that police generally hate doing anyway, so it might be a good place to start.
Amp: at this point in his career I think that President Biden is pretty much a slender reed who bends with the wind. The word “thrall” is too extreme for me, but I figure that he’s a lot more heavily influenced by the more radical left in his administration than was represented during the 2020 campaign. This looks more to me like a specific political strategy, trying to reverse the damage that the “defund the police” meme looks like it’s going to do in 2022 to Democratic candidates.
I rather doubt that requiring training would make any difference. For one thing, if people are already ignoring the plethora of firearm laws out there and the laws against murder, I doubt they’re going to pay attention to a requirement to get training and get a license. As far as the analogy to drivers licenses and traffic accidents goes, people aren’t being murdered because the killers aren’t trained in the use of their firearms and are accidentally killing people. It might help ensure that the killer murders his intended target instead of some 4-year old kid, but that’s it.
I was watching Chicago P.D. a few nights ago. It’s interesting because the writers actually keep up with what’s going on in Chicago both socially and politically and write the changes into the show. One plot line dealt with trying to find someone who shot a child during a drive-by. Sgt. Voight commented that back in the day when Jeff Fort ran the gangs in Chicago he oversaw the commission of some terrible crimes, but if someone had shot a child they would be dead before noon the next day. I’ve been living here long enough to remember when Jeff Fort ran the gangs in Chicago and I believe that’s the truth. You didn’t hear about children being shot back then. I’ve told my wife more than once that the difference between those days and now is that organized crime is no longer organized; they spray bullets into crowds and down streets if they see a target and don’t care about killing “civilians”.
I actually agree that cops should not be sent to deal with a lot of the things that they are sent to deal with (although I would not favor “replacement” if by that you mean “reduce the number of cops”). But consider that two cops were shot dead in New York this last week responding to a domestic dispute. They didn’t go in with guns blazing, either – the mother was having an issue with her son and wanted the cops to deal with him. When the cops opened his door the son shot them both; both subsequently died. No warning, no notification that this might happen from the mother. Every cop will tell you that domestic disputes are the most dangerous calls they can make.
Ron, that show feels true to you because it is designed to play on the nostalgia of people like you. But, your feelings, stoked and coddled by crime shows and Fox News, are not an accurate representation of reality.
Violent crime rates in the U.S. peaked in the early 1990’s . This is a simple, numerical fact. Despite occasional upticks here and there, violent crime had a distinct downward trend from then until 2020. source
And, yes, I say “had” because the increases of the past two years are more pronounced, and cannot be written off as statistical noise. I also fear that they will be more enduring, as they are likely related to at least three phenomenon that have no end in sight – the pandemice, the rise in right wing extremism and increased firearms sales.
In looking for actual evidence on this point, I came across this excellent collection of studies on the effects of various changes to firearms laws. These are complex, multivariable problems. Proving causation in such circumstances is a huge undertaking. The evidence surrounding licencing thus far is inconclusive. However, there are several laws that may decrease gun violence – Background Checks, Child-Access prevention laws, and waiting periods.
I think there are a couple places where your reasoning falls down. One is that if one cannot obtain a legal gun, then one can simply buy an illegal one. Most illegal guns in the U.S. were intitially purchased legally in states with more lax laws and then illegally transported across state lines. If laws were more uniform, it would no longer be possible to evade laws in that way. So, then, one would need to turn to the black market, and I don’t think that it’s simple to make the sort of contacts required to purchase an illegal gun.
Another place where your reasoning falls down is that you seem to think murders are things that people with no respect for the law plan in advance. Of course, that sometimes happens. But, I think the vast majority of murders are acts of emotion and impulse, not rational thought and contemplation. That being the case, every obstacle placed between angry people and guns will give them a bit of time to calm down and reflect, thereby reducing the liklihood of a murder happening. If one leaves their gun at home, because it is difficult to get a conceal carry permit and they don’t want to risk getting caught, they are less likely to have it with them when they have an altercation out in public, and may cool down as they head home to get it. If they have to wait three days to buy a gun, or travel to a state with more lax gun laws, or for find a contact to make an illegal purchase, they may have gotten over their initial murderous rage before they obtain the gun.
One time when gun laws clearly did prevent violence was in the storming of the capital on January 6th. People intending to commit a crime left their guns at home precisely because they didn’t want to get arrested for possession of firearms before they got the chance to commit the crime they were planning at the capital. If DC had more lax gun laws, things might have gone even worse that day.
The pandemic may well have led to sufficient frustration and a breakdown of the normal social order that would lead to increased violence. An attribution of increased violence to an increase in firearm sales is a little more sketchy. You state that illegal gun sales generally involve firearms that were sold legally and I imagine that’s true. But I would expect that generally the initial legal sale was a straw purchase – someone who bought that firearm legally and then sold it to someone who could not legally buy it themselves – as opposed to the gun entering a criminal’s hands through theft from the legal purchaser. To posit an increase in violence to the general increase in sales implies to me a linear relationship of a general increase in sales to an increase of straw purchases. I don’t think that’s clear at all. Based on surveys of firearm retailers – admittedly anecdotal to some extent – I think the proportion of first-time gun buyers who want firearms for self-defense has jumped over the last 2 years. These are men and women who think that they need protection against violent crime and that they need a firearm to provide it. You may argue against the actual effectiveness of that; my point is that people with that motivation are not selling those firearms to criminals.
Actually, now that I think of it a straw purchase is in itself illegal – but in FBI and State records they would show as legal purchases because no one goes back and edits the records.
As far as “right-wing extremism” being a cause of an increase in violence? I don’t know where you live, but here in the Chicago area the increase in shootings and homicides and the massive increase in burglaries and carjackings is not being committed by “right-wing extremists”! I’d be interested in any figures you have showing that any increase in such violence is in anyway proportional to the increase in those types of violent crime in general. I’d also be interested in how violence by “right-wing extremism” is being defined.
Hard to say. But I think the vast majority of murders committed via acts of emotion and impulse are either committed by someone who is at home where a carry permit doesn’t apply (I’m thinking domestic violence here) or they’re carrying the gun illegally in the first place anyway whether or not they are doing so with the express prior intent to commit a crime. Illinois has one of the most restrictive concealed carry licensing processes in the nation; State police and local police background check of between 90 to 120 days duration and 16 hours of instruction including firearm safety and use, the State and Federal laws concerning the same and 6 hours of range time. But murders have increased.
The test of our propositions would be to take a look at murder statistics in States with Constitutional Carry laws or very lax concealed carry laws and compare them to States that have highly restrictive laws such as Illinois.
When a 16-year old kid gets angry that someone flashes an opposing gang sign at him, whips a handgun out of his pocket and on a Chicago sidewalk shoots both the gang sign flasher and an 8-year old girl who happened to be in the way – killing her – the main issue here is not the gun. The main issue is that there is an increasing number, indeed seemingly an inexhaustible supply, of 16-year old kids who have so little regard for human life that they will shoot a member of another gang and shoot and kill an 8-year old girl in broad daylight on a Chicago sidewalk and then stuff the gun back in their pocket and walk with a buddy of theirs to Subway and sit down and have a sandwich like nothing happened. You can pass all the gun laws you want, but as long as we have a society that keeps generating kids like that we’ll have an increase in violent crime.
The hell it isn’t. I’ve been living in the Chicago area long enough to remember Jeff Fort, both when he ran the Chicago gangs and when the operation he ran was exposed during his trials and those of his lieutenants. That felt true to me because it is true. “Civilians” were rarely killed during those days. It’s well accepted by law enforcement and reporters that an unintended result of decapitating the Chicago gang structure was that now you have dozens of would-be gang leaders fighting to increase their share of the pie by any means necessary. Kind of like what happened in Yugoslavia once Tito died. And you don’t need to watch Fox News for that – the local NBC news and the Chicago Tribune covers this pretty well.