Laid Off Police Officers: Economic Downturn Causing Increase in Violent Crime?07.29.10
Five laid off police officers in Bay City, Michigan retaliated by renting billboard space with images that suggest that the lack of cops on the streets could lead to more violent crimes, all in an effort to get back their jobs.
The police say they paid for the two billboards that went up last week to bring attention to the impasse in negotiations between its union and city officials, who are seeking a 10.8 percent reduction in labor costs from eight unions to tackle a $1.66 million budget deficit for the fiscal year that began July 1. The billboards also spotlight the city’s decision to replace the roof on city hall for $1.6 million.
The police would have you believe that the city put its citizens’ safety at risk in order to put a new roof on city hall. But just how much less safe are Bay Citians with less than 60 cops on the beat to serve and protect a population of roughly 35,000?
This article doesn’t say just how many officers under 60 the city currently has, so it’s tough to run these numbers perfectly so let’s find a range. If there were 60 cops employed, that would average out to 1.7 officers per 1,000 residents. If there were 55 cops employed, that would be about 1.57 officers per 1,000 residents. So, rough estimate: 1.6 cops per 1,000 residents.
After a little investigation — because how are we to know the value of that number without any other information? — I found the average number of police officers for Midwestern cities with populations between 25,000 and 49,000 people (in 2008) was 1.7. Given that we’re dealing with averages and estimates here, that’s pretty much right at the average for the region.
Seattle, a city 17 times the size of Bay City, has also recently had people taking to visible venues — this time the op-ed page of The Seattle Times to voice their concerns about laid off police officers, which has brought up the question: how many cops is enough?
UCLA professor of public policy Mark Kleiman … says there’s no generally accepted benchmark for police staffing levels. But he says a decent police-to-population ratio is 1.5 to 2 officers per 1,000 residents.
Looks like Bay City falls safely into that acceptable range.
Given the state of Bay City’s economy — part of Michigan, which has suffered one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates for the duration of this recession — it should come as no surprise that the city has had to make some tough budgetary decisions.
And while I feel for the laid off police officers for having to join the ranks of the unemployed, it seems foolish to have squandered what money they may have had saved up on an inflammatory billboard that will most likely do nothing to change the reality that, until the economy rebounds, there just literally isn’t enough money left to employ them.
Photo courtesy of Christopher P. Bills’ Flickr Photostream
(H/T Brad Grabowski for the link)