Class Warfare Blog

June 10, 2020

Defunding the Police (Poor Choice of Words, Correct Idea)

Filed under: Culture,Economics,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:52 am
Tags: ,

In a local newsletter here in Chicago a post entitled “Chicago Has Nearly Tripled Per-Capita Police Spending Since 1964, Data Shows” showed up today. Here’s the subtitle: ““Chicago is spending more on policing per person than at any time in the last half-century despite a persistent drop in crime over the last two decades, while the vast majority of murders remain unsolved.”

When we first moved to Chicago, we signed up to have the Chicago Tribune delivered (a desire of mine along the lines “When I retire . . .”) and the first notable news stories were an accident on the El (blamed on the train driver as they always were apparently) and a court case involving police brutality (the details of which are both gory and disgusting). It was then that we learned that the Chicago Police budget 2-3 million dollars per year to pay judgments in court cases. (You don’t pay if you win.)

If you look at the graph below, you will note that the spending was adjusted for inflation and is all “per capita” based. (Yes, that per capita, President Trump. The one that means “per person.”)

So, the common definition of insanity being doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, we do make note that as spending went up, crime went down. Correlation is not causation, now or ever, so some unpacking of the results of that spending needs to be made. And is that cost effective spending. If not, then reductions are in order.

Now, there is a lot of yada, yada, yada in the air along the lines of “if we defund the police, who will protect us?” I keep saying . . . the police do not actively protect people. If you call the police claiming that your neighbor is getting full on Jack Nicholson in The Shining, they will tell you that until he has broken the law, they cannot do anything. So, you have to wait until your neighbor kills you to file a complaint.

And what is the crime we want deterred the most?

Murder, of course.

(And, also of course, my cartoon mind pops up Jack Benny’s response to the mugger who says “Your money or your life!” And Benny’s response is “I’m thinking, I’m thinking!”)

The crime we want most to be deterred is murder. How is murder deterred? Do the police show up to prevent murders? Not often. Murders are often crimes of passion, crimes of the moment. (“It was an accident, Officer! I was robbing the guy and my gun just went off. Cheap damned thing!”) The response times for police 9-1-1 calls is not particularly good anywhere and I certainly would not bet my life on their coming to save me.

So, how are crimes deterred? By catching and locking up the criminals. Criminals in jail aren’t out on the street doing more crimes. If every (or 70% or 80%) of murders were caught and significantly punished, borderline murderers would be reluctant to put themselves in a position where they are likely to do just that.

So, the crime we want deterred the most? Murder.

The crime that Chicago’s police seems to be least effective in deterring? Murder.

So, we are paying more and more and expecting different results.

Hmmm, that’s a definition of something . . . what was it . . . ?

What Defunding the Police Actually Means
It is Business 101 that incorporating your business (I have done it, it is cheap to do.) provides protection. If you run afoul of creditors or your own bad business practices, you can disincorporate, that is kill off your corporation. When it dies, many things die with it. Labor contracts, unionization agreements, many debts . . . all gone. Some corporations disincorporate on Friday and re-incorporate on Monday (same officers, same building, same office equipment, etc.) This is what Camden, NJ did when they were unable to institute a change in the culture of their police department. They disbanded it. Killed it dead. And started up anew, from scratch, with new hiring and training standards, a new culture, new leaders, etc. This is a standard business practice, people, but calling it “Defunding the Police” was a mistake as people will misunderstand that phrase, deliberately sometimes, but innocently also. Better would have been “Disband the Department—Start Over” or “Replace This Department with a Good One.” Trying to “re form” the departments we have hasn’t worked anywhere to speak of in the U.S. And, if you don’t like a firm you hired, what do you do? You fire them and hire a new one under different terms. Donald Trump has a known tag line of “You’re fired!” so he can hardly complain. (Won’t stop him, but his complaints will be baseless.)

As I said, this is a standard business practice, so the Repubs should love it.

June 2, 2020

I Repeat . . .

Filed under: Culture,Morality,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 10:22 am
Tags: , , ,

A simple rule change is all that is needed to proscribe the actions of police officers. As I have suggested before, the actions of police need to be limited to the penalty were one convicted of the crime alleged. So, if someone is accused of passing counterfeit money, the most that infraction of the law can impose is a short stay in prison. If a police officer uses lethal force, it should be clear to everyone that that is not allowed and must be prosecuted. If someone is being arrested for the crime of passing counterfeit currency and they resist arrest, what is the penalty for resisting arrest? A short stay in jail. Anything imposed by police in excess of the punishment were the person being arrested convicted of the crime, is a violation of the law and must be prosecuted.

Using lethal force to arrest someone for jaywalking, or an equipment violation on a car is ludicrous and needs to be addressed and this way makes the police and prosecutors accountable for their decisions.

That someone is killed because he was selling cigarettes one at a time illegally, is ludicrous and no prosecutor should be given the option to “file charges against the officers involved or not.”

This is simple, easy to learn. If an officer is ignorant of the law, a quick call to dispatch can inform them of the amount of force that can be applied. (Come on, they do not have to memorize all of the penalties of all of the crimes, they just need to know which qualify for the death penalty. Any other infractions are covered by excessive force regulations.) When someone is arrested for selling single cigarettes, a scratch on the wrist from when handcuffs were applied is an acceptable amount of force. Remember these are the people who protect a detainee’s head when getting into a patrol car to be taken in to be booked. When they show extreme neglect of such care must be prosecuted.

Okay, if someone holds up a gun and seems to be going to shoot, can cops shoot back? Considering the police’s track records at shooting kids with BB guns, even an adult in a store shopping for Christmas and holding a BB gun, I think the police need to be trained to take cover and be authorized to return fire, not shoot “because I was afraid.” Being afraid and doing a good job is part of the qualifications for the job. It should not include the current “if you feel fear, open fire” dictates so often employed.

Interestingly police in other countries, some of whom are not armed with firearms, seem to do a better job at this than our police, so we know it can be done.

And, yes, all of the other recommendations about psychological testing, more training, and a national registry of police officers fired for cause being kept are all good, but I think the limits of the behavior of our police are good ones. And hiring police departments should be required to search that database before hiring.

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