Billions More for C.O.P.S. Would be a Crime
President Obama’s plan to add $4 billion in funding for police not right way to address public safety, veteran’s unemployment
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Saying that the new money would do more harm than good at a time of decreasing crime, the Justice Policy Institute denounced the President’s announcement today of of his intention to include billions of dollars more for policing in his proposed budget. If identical to the funding sought for first responders in the President’s American Jobs Act from last fall, $4 billion of the proposed $5 billion would be used to support hiring, rehiring, and retention of career law enforcement officers.
“At a time when both violent and property crimes are dropping, bulking up police forces will likely mean more people arrested for low level and ‘quality of life’ offenses, as police look to justify the additional funding,” said Tracy Velázquez, JPI Executive Director.
“And this will mean more individuals with an arrest or conviction record, making them much less likely to be employed, particularly in this economy. Policing historically has focused disproportionately on low-income communities and communities of color, which have already borne the burden of the economic downturn. And while the Administration might score political points for looking ‘tough on crime,’ state and local government will be picking up the check for locking more people up.”
According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, violent crime in the U.S. has dropped for four years in a row. Declines in both property and violent crime in 2010 were seen in all regions of the country. When promoting this piece of the jobs bill last fall, Vice President Biden insinuated that without more police people would be at greater risk for murder and rape – even though these went down 4.2 and 5 percent respectively. The national drops in crime occurred while state prison populations were also falling, and while the country is experiencing its first-ever national decrease in law enforcement positions.
The President’s proposal would also give a preference to communities who fill the new police positions with Veterans. This in effect takes control away from Veterans for their future. Said Velázquez, “Not all veterans are interested in being police; it would be fairer to take the $4 billion and create employer incentives to hire veterans in any profession.” She added, “If the Administration wants to create a public safety jobs program, they should fund more drug and mental health treatment providers in the community and youth programs for at-risk kids. These investments have been shown time and again to be more effective in keeping people out of the justice system.”
Referring to Vice President Biden’s comments in October, Velázquez concluded: “I hope the Obama administration doesn’t resort to the fear mongering they engaged in when pushing the American Jobs Act. That type of rhetoric can impede the progress that has been made to reduce incarceration and the overuse of the justice system in this country. With state prison populations finally starting to drop, the Administration needs to get on board with “smart on crime” policies; and over-saturating communities with police isn’t one of them.”
The Justice Policy Institute, based in Washington, DC, is working to reduce the use of incarceration and the justice system and promoting policies that improve the well-being of all people and communities. For more information, please visit www.justicepolicy.org.