Over the last few months there has been a lot of traffic about law enforcement. What they do, what they do wrong (let’s be honest, it’s mostly what they do wrong.), and regulations that govern them. Some have called the recent months part of a “war on cops.” Over the next few weeks we’ll be looking into recent attacks on police, protests, self-defense cases that have exonerated police that the media crucified, and much more.
1.) Baseline. Before we go anywhere, a note about what the next few weeks aren’t about. I am not suggesting that police have full authority at all times. (Search warrants are great things, even if the Federal government disagrees. They are still the linchpin of the 4th Amendment) There should be limits on the State’s power to peer into the lives of private citizens, especially if there is no criminal reason for doing so. At the same time, I’m also not Cop Block. I’m not of the opinion that every move an officer makes is by default the wrong one. This is a much more clinical look at law enforcement than that.
This week will lay down the baseline. We will look at cutbacks at police departments across the country, the statistics, the economics, and basically the dry, nuts-and-bolts side of law enforcement. Next week, we will jump headlong into recent attacks on police, including a video stating that it’s “open season” on police and white people. Lastly, we will look at the response to it, and show the aspects of the police department that a lot of anti-police groups would rather not focus on.
2.) Cutbacks. It’s worth noting that, even before the recent focus on law enforcement, police departments had already been facing cutbacks due to the economic downturn. The downturn, according to a 2012-2013 report from the Department of Justice shows, thousands of police officers and sheriff’s deputies faced forloughs of some form. A 2013 CNBC report picked up on this theme and focused on the impact those cutbacks have had on cities across the country.
3.) Leaving the force. The decrease in budgets also leads to lower pay, which is a major factor in officers deciding to leave the force altogether. In the last 2 years alone, Atlanta, Indianapolis, St. Louis (yes, where Ferguson is), and Gary, Illinois have all seen their numbers shrink for reasons ranging from wages to collapsing morale.
4.) Population. All of which exacerbates an inherent problem in law enforcement. (Which is also one of the main reasons they almost uniformly support civilian concealed carry.) Put bluntly, police are vastly outnumbered. Atlanta stands at about 1,900 officers, but the Census Bureau says that Atlanta’s 2014 population is roughly 456,002.
5.) Bottom line. The statistics show that the recent focus on law enforcement is merely the apex of a problem that has been hitting law enforcement for years. It is a decrease in numbers, alongside an increase in high-profile police shootings (in a society where “shooting for self-defense” is right up there with murder for a lot of people). Law enforcement is a tough job, and the combination of a society that seems to be against the use of force, a media looking to stoke fear, and the collapsing morale and budgets have only made it harder.
Next week, we jump into the recent ambushes on police, the media’s coverage of police, and how that coverage very rarely lines up with the real story.
Stay informed. Stay alert. Stay free.