Just as defunding the police isn't the answer to problems that Democrats have with policing in America, neither is turning policing into a money pit where money is thrown at the problem without understanding what the problem is. It hasn't worked with education or government, and it won't work with policing.
Politicians have shown they just don't understand. While cities that cut back on police funding found that it worsened the crime problem in their jurisdictions, restoring the problem did not restore the status quo.
That is because while funding was cut, the police departments in those cities often became overwhelmed by the increase in crime. In other words, the cities dug the hole they were in in regards to effective policing even deeper.
Restoring funding did not fill in the hole. In fact, the hole continues to deepen.
In Memphis, Tennessee, the city council is considering a proposed $15 million in new funding for police officer salaries as part of an almost $30 million budget resolution. The city believes that additional funds will allow the Memphis Police Department to offer salaries comparable to other police departments in the area.
Right now, the city's top pay is less than many other cities.
"If you want to be competitive, at the end of the day, it all comes down to money, full stop," Councilman Chase Carlisle, the chair of the city's budget committee, said. "You have to be able to have the best possible compensation package if you want the best possible police officers."
It is an impressive funding increase, but it won't help the problem in the city.
The Memphis Police Department believes it needs around 2,500 officers to fight crime in the city. It has about 1,900. So, it is understaffed by 24%.
In the meantime, crime in the city rose by 13% from 2021 to 2022, based on Memphis Shelby Crime Commission data.
If the city wants to know why it is having trouble recruiting police officers, it needs to look at the situation from the officers' perspective.
Sure, a higher salary is great, and no one would say they don't want to be paid more. However, even the city council agrees the funding increase would simply make their pay competitive with other cities, and those other cities probably offer fewer headaches.
A police officer's job is stressful enough. They risk their lives regularly and sometimes have to make life-and-death decisions for others. They don't want to willingly take on more stress.
Right now, the Memphis Police Department is tarnished. In January, Tyre Nichols died from injuries sustained from Memphis police officers after a traffic stop. This led to nationwide protests over the department's handling of the situation. Five police officers were fired and charged with murder.
By becoming a Memphis police officer, a person would take on some of that shame.
Then there is the general stigma police themselves are dealing with post-George Floyd. They are under greater scrutiny from politicians, media, and the public. While generally this isn't a bad thing, the current degree of scrutiny is so intense that officers find themselves overly cautious and hesitant to engage suspects. This can lead to an officer's death.
They also find an increasing lack of support from segments of the community and politicians.
When weighing the pros and cons, many police officers have decided to move to smaller, less-urban departments. For similar pay, they deal with less stress and have greater support.
So, if cities like Memphis want to increase recruitment, it must offer competitive pay, government support, prosecute criminals, and show the community supports its police department.
Only then will Memphis and cities like it start to get their crime problem under control.
Michael Letts is the Founder and CEO of In-Vest USA, a national grassroots nonprofit organization helping to re-fund police by contributing thousands of bulletproof vests for police forces through educational, public relations, sponsorship, and fundraising programs. He also has over 30 years of law enforcement experience. Read More Michael Letts reports — Here.
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