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May 22, 2012

Interesting new JPI study on monies (over?)spent on police forces

Rethinking_the_blues_cover-full;size$350,454As reported in this press release, the Justice Policy Institute today has published a notable new report on police forces. According to the press release, this new report, titled "Rethinking the Blues: How we police in the U.S. and at what cost," asserts that modern "police forces have grown from locally-funded public safety initiatives into a federally subsidized jobs program, with a decreasing focus on community policing and growing concerns about racial profiling and 'cuffs for cash,' with success measured not by increased safety and well-being but by more arrests." The report's executive summary is available at this link, and here are excerpts:

Although crime rates are at the lowest they have been in over 30 years, the number of arrests has declined only slightly between 2009 and 20102 and the U.S. still spends more than $100 billion on police every year.  This money goes to fund 714,921 sworn police officers and an increasing number of militarized police units.

Police play a role in protecting communities from violent and property crime. However, police forces have morphed over the years from a locally-funded and managed entity to protect public safety, to also serving as a federally-funded jobs initiative, an engine for surveillance, and a militaristic special forces agency engaged in a war on drugs, gangs, and youth.  Federal government funds and involvement have helped create large police forces that are disconnected from communities and operate in a punitive rather than preventative way resulting in more arrests, more prison, and more costs to taxpayers, among other negative effects on communities.  It is not just the sheer number of police that lead to more arrests and more prison, but also the style of policing, which treats entire communities as though they should be contained, surveilled, and punished....


1. Reform laws and sentencing so police don’t have to pick and choose.  State and federal policymakers must take sentencing reform seriously, reducing the harmful impacts of harsh sentences, and must examine both drug laws and those related to other lesser offenses to determine where they might be rolled back or eliminated completely.

2. Reallocate resources to positive social investments known to improve public safety. Research shows that investing in services and programs that keep people out of the justice system is more effective at improving public safety and promoting community well-being than investing in law enforcement.

3. Focus law enforcement on the most serious offenses. Arrests for low-level offenses have less of an impact on public safety, but still use up considerable law enforcement resources.  Focusing law enforcement efforts on the more serious offenses will allow officers to use their resources more effectively, thereby improving public safety.

4. Implement policies that allow police to issue citations over arrests for certain offenses.  A number of cities across the country have started to recognize the waste involved in arresting people for certain low-level offenses, which result in people spending days and sometimes longer in jails.

May 22, 2012 at 03:09 PM | Permalink


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Looked up from a park bench recently and saw one of these surveillance cameras. When they start talking back to us, I know we really will be in trouble.

Posted by: Joe | May 23, 2012 8:57:04 AM

Joe --

If it starts talking back to me, I'm throwing something at it.

I knew civilization was in trouble when my car started talking back to me, and I was right.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 23, 2012 2:33:27 PM

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