Lean Times Mean Less Cops

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Just when you would think that they community would need its thin blue line the most, local cash-strapped governments are having to fray the ends and ask a smaller community of cops to do more with less. In some cases, they are even cutting that frayed blue line away altogether.

What's the problem?

No matter whether you call it the Great Recession, the Lesser Depression, or just the economic crisis, but since 2007 the US has been sliding into a financial crisis. Governments big, small and in-between have cut everything they could think of including teachers, social services, recreation, and maintenance. Some 600,000 public employees have gotten pink slips in the past few years alone. Increasingly, these public employees are law enforcement.

Case Study Camden

The town of Paterson New Jersey laid off 125 officers in 2011 in an effort to cut millions from their shrinking budget outlay. Another New Jersey city, Camden, went even further in 2012 and eliminated their whole department. One of the most violent cities in the country, Camden laid off 437 certified officers. The county sheriff has assumed the law enforcement role in Camden but is doing so with 401 lesser-paid deputies (of which less than 49% can be prior Camden PD officers due to union rules).

Augmenting the new force will be 69 unarmed civilian police aides. The aides will handle non-emergency calls (hopefully). The aides will not have police arrest authority but are uniformed and in many cases will be the only law enforcement person to respond to a radio call. They are a bargain for the county because they are paid on average about 20% less than officers and aren't eligible for the state police retirement program.

In Cleveland last year an entire class of 42 newly graduated police academy cadets were immediately laid off just after receiving their diplomas. Budget cutbacks.

Case Study Oregon

Josephine County, larger than the state of Rhode Island, but with only 80,000 residents, is a huge timber rich region of Oregon. Unfortunately, it's also broke and, forced with a $12-million budget shortfall, cut its sheriff's department back to three deputies on patrol eight hours a day, five days a week. With burglaries up and people nervous, local citizens formed an armed posse to help patrol small outlying communities when the sheriffs aren't available. A facebook page set up by a retired deputy also helps sniff out crime.

Local citizens in Josephine County are packing heat, right or wrong, and taking on a big liability to fill in the gap left by laid off deputies. Could this be headed to your community?

Woe is the shepherd that lays off his sheepdogs when the wolves are circling. With the economy still sputtering along, increasingly you may find yourself to be your own last light of defense if the thin blue line gets any thinner.

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December 6, 2012  •  09:06 PM
A good chunk of the reason so many agencies are broke is because of their spending on police and police pensions. Remember, a pension payment does not buy you anything today.

With more reasonable police pensions, spending would be less, and more money could be directed to police on the street.
December 11, 2012  •  12:36 PM
I hate to say it, having relatives in law enforcement, but it seems that it is a crisis of their own making like so many other goverment agencies.

The bright side to all this is that it might help restore fiscal sanity in our nation and make individuals realize, well funded police force or no, that we are responsible for our defense. That not only means arming ourselves, but also forming community bonds with our neighbors. I have a feeling that if we had the same neighborhood community spirit we had 60 years ago then we wouldn't need to have as many law enforcement personell as we do now.
February 19, 2013  •  09:24 PM

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