By Dom Nozzi
A few decades ago, an elected local government friend of mine in Gainesville, Florida posted information on a local politics email discussion list that showed the significant budget increases allocated to the County Sheriff for several years. I told him I was deeply gratified by his courage in bringing to light such overlooked information.
Indeed, the conventional wisdom tells us that law enforcement is vastly UNDER-funded.
In my evaluations of local government funding, city and county governments throughout the nation nearly always allocate TOO MUCH local government revenue to law enforcement, largely because local law enforcement has been an out-of-control sacred cow in America. It is our dirty little secret, that no one dares mention due to excessive citizen fear and crime hysteria. I therefore applauded his uncommon courage in pointing out the excessive law enforcement funding by the local government he was elected to govern.
In a report I prepared at the time showing the astronomically high levels of funding provided to local governments across America, I pointed out that local law enforcement is treated very much like the Pentagon at the national level. The Pentagon and our local law enforcement people always ask for huge annual budget increments, and nearly always get it.
After all, who is going to be “soft” on Communism? Drugs? Babies in burning buildings? Too often, opposing outrageous budget increases is akin to supporting murder and mayhem.
The increase in law enforcement budgets that local governments tend to dole out each year greatly exceeds population growth and inflation.
The law enforcement budget for Gainesville, Florida, for example, greatly exceeded inflation in the 20 years I was a town planner there. The Police Department budget increased by over 400 percent in that time period, despite a population increase of only 20 percent.
Appallingly, a number of local “progressives” supported massive police budget increases, blinded by both the media and their emotions into forgetting that money going to police is money diverted away from public programs that can effectively reduce crime (or improve our quality of life with things like open space acquisition or restoration of environmentally degraded areas).
In fact, I’d argue that there is an inverse correlation between the money we throw at the police, and our crime and quality of life problems. The more money we put into law enforcement, the HIGHER the crime rate and the lower our quality of life becomes.
It is a ruinous outrage what a large percentage of the total city and county budgets go to law enforcement in America.
It will be a great day when local law enforcement departments have to hold a bake sale for their revenue needs, while quality of life programs get all the money they need from the local government.
My book, The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607
My book, Road to Ruin, can be purchased here:
My Adventures blog
Run for Your Life! Dom’s Dangerous Opinions blog
My Town & Transportation Planning website
My Plan B blog
My Facebook profile
My YouTube video library
My Picasa Photo library
My Author spotlight