By Shafiq Abdussabur
After years of promoting Community Based Police practices in efforts of building a stronger relationship between the police and members of the urban community, recent budget cuts could all but extinguish any remaining hope.
There has been no slow growth in anti-police sentiment since the post Civil Rights Movement. Police officers have always been the target of public discontent during tough political change, economic stress, and social reorganization. All of these factors have seem to consistently retard a much needed productive relationship between police and the urban community.
America’s families and communities faced serious crime problems in 1992. More violent crimes were reported in 1992 than ever before, with nearly two million murders, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults occurring in the United States. Gun crime had skyrocketed to the highest point in 20 years with more than half a million total gun crimes reported. In 1992 alone, more than 850,000 children were victims of violent crime, and guns killed 5,379 children — an average of nearly fifteen every day.
As the community called for more police to feel safe, President Clinton fought for and signed a plan to help communities across the country move to community policing by funding the hiring and redeployment of 100,000 new police officers over five years. The Clinton-Gore Administration’s COPS initiative, passed as part of the 1994 Crime Bill, has provided more than 11,000 law enforcement agencies funding to hire or redeploy more than 100,000 police officers. In 2000, President Clinton won over $1 billion to help communities take the next step and hire up to 50,000 more police officers by FY 2005.
Many local police departments took that opportunity to hire additional police officers to help address growing gang and drug infested communities. However, this initiative also allowed police departments to use the money to upgrade SWAT Teams, computer technology and even clothing all on behalf of the Federal Government.
As we now fast forward 10 years later, the Federal Government that operates COPS — the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services is the office of the U.S. Department of Justice that advances the practice of community policing in America’s state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies, is a subject of even greater financial constraints. Now longer can local police departments look to the President to rescue them from police shortages. Unlike departments during the Clinton era who were in need of more police and money to hire them, current mayors are looking to President Obama to provide them with federal funds just to maintain existing police officers and personnel.
The latest news reports from the White House suggests that almost every State across the US will be cutting jobs at both the State and City level and police departments will not be immune to these reductions. In December 2010, Newark Mayor Cory Booker announced that due to multi-million dollar budget gap and an impasse with the city’s police union, he had no choice but to layoff off 167 police officers. Newark is not alone. This week state officials signed off on plans in Camden to lay off half of its force, and in Jersey City, cops turned out to protest proposed layoffs as well. On February 24, 2011, one day after new Governor Dan Malloy gave his budget address, the city of New Haven laid off 16 police officers. New Haven Police union officials said it was the first time in 41 years. Police layoffs seem to be the new trend in cities desperately attempting to close large budget gaps.
Research has been tauted that departments that have increased their forces have still seen steady increases in violent crimes. Other reports such as that from Mayor Booker have suggested that if your city has seen steady drops in violent crime then one could rationally reduce a police force under “exigent circumstances.”
Whatever the philosophy, we will still have to wait and see the outcome of how this will all play out. Is public safety all about the number of police in a community or is it about the number of relationships the police have with its community?
US White House: http://clinton5.nara.gov/WH/Accomplishments/eightyears-06.html