In tough economic times, everyone tightens their belts. Consumers spend less and politicians who never completed an Economics 101 course try to maintain or increase government revenue by raising taxes. An ugly cycle, actually.
The same politicians seem to have a misunderstanding of government’s role in society. Without sounding too much like a political blog, I believe that government should provide for public safety before worrying about public entertainment. Frankly, it shouldn’t be in the public entertainment business to begin with.
For example, in my city, our department suffered a rather large budget decrease this year. Fortunately, our chief is committed to not losing officers, and he was able to squeeze the money from other programs. The unfortunate part is a lot of the money came from things like training. The “good” news is the city is still able to provide summer concerts, agreed to partially fund a private company’s entertainment plans for a new residential community, and provide a lot more recreational and entertainment functions than I could list in one blog entry. Entertaining the masses trumps public safety.
Of course, things could be worse. A nearby county agency, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department, fired 36 detention deputies two weeks ago. Yesterday, they fired 25 road deputies. The reason? Budget cuts. And, there is no guarantee that this will be the final round of terminations. However, recreational facilities and public entertainment continues.
The Florida Department of Corrections eliminated 75 positions last fall, and had to eliminate 348 more in this budget.
Additionally, 80 Florida state probation officers just got their “pink slips.” The offender caseload for each officer is now increasing from 73 offenders/officer to a whopping 125 offenders/officer. Of course, this also means that a lot of offenders are probably going to be released from probation without serving their full sentence. Ever out of touch with reality, the Miami Herald is more upset about potential cuts to the process of restoring felons’ civil rights.
The public safety cuts are not restricted to law enforcement. There have been several fire department employees cut from the agencies around my jurisdiction. The worst case I have seen comes out of East Point, GA, a suburb of Atlanta. East Point closed two of its five fire stations and terminated about 60 firefighters last month. Do you think that affects their ability to respond to medical and fire emergencies?
Other than the obvious impact on the deputies and police officers being fired, what are the other effects that will be felt in police work in the coming years? Increased crime, longer response times, less training, and a decline in officer safety.
These are not the glory days we are approaching. Do your job, watch each others backs, commit yourself to officer safety and go home every night. It’s not the end of the world, but those of us still employed in police work are going to be busy.