Sunday, April 7, 2013

"Excuse me, I have to go. Somewhere, there is a crime happening."

19th century Stockton, California in better times? Postcard photo California Historial Society.
That quote above is by Robocop from the classic 1987 sci-fi by Paul Verhoven.

I have written about the Pythonic thinking driving UK police privatization and the transformation of police culture from community cop to combat cop. Lately things have accelerated into an economic and social earthquake for policing. Am I the only one noticing? I don't see it in the press. The blabbering heads on Talk TV/Radio are too IQ-starved to notice.

Then I thought of a story:

In a not-too-distant dystopian future Gotham City faces financial ruin. The national economy is in shambles and municipal budgets to pay for skyrocketing costs of overtime, pensions, and medical expenses are gone. Represented by unions clinging to 19th century collective bargaining dogma, cops are being laid off in droves. 

Fears of crime cause thousands to hide behind the walls of gated communities and metal bars on windows. Their homes are prisons where they cower, too afraid to walk downtown at night. The police chief advises people to arm themselves. 

Sound like Robocop? Nope. It's us.


Proof #1: The municipal financial crisis trickling down from the Great Recession. Consider thousands of police layoffs in the US and police privatization in the UK. Consider how this whole mess heads north as the Canadian economy tanks.

Proof #2: Police layoffs in;

East Greenwich, NJ,
Lansing, MI,
Cleveland, OH,
Cincinati, OH.
Miami, FL,
Los Angeles, CA,
San Jose, CA,

Proof #3: Across California the FBI reports over 4,000 officers were laid off from 2008 - 2011.

Proof #4: Increasing numbers of municipalities are in financial ruin such as Detroit, or claiming bankruptcy such as Stockton, CA.

And now the latest aftershock; Due to police layoffs a Sheriff in Milwaukee is advising residents to purchase guns and take safety courses.

Is it just me noticing this or has visionary leadership truly gone AWOL?

2 Replies so far - Add your comment

  1. Greg,
    A couple of thoughts here. I think it should be acknowledged that there will always be a place for the combat cop. Even if you have a belt full of tools, you're still going to have have to drive some nails now and again. And you are right about the leadership. I was reading Drucker this weekend, and in one passage he noted that the Coca Cola company originally licensed much of the process to others. Now they control it themselves. The customers, don't care, however, as long as they get their Coke. The same can be said for police services. As long as the public gets a professional product, they won't care whether the badge says "Police Officer" or "Police Service Aide," or whether or not there is a badge at all. Even in the face of this logic, some leaders only see nails.

  2. Thanks Tim

    Love that line - some leaders only see nails.

    A caveat to the metaphor; seeing nails infers a carpenter and the carpenters I know are terrific problem solvers and see the whole future design in their minds. If only our leaders were so talented!

    Agree on needing combat cops activities. My admittedly naive wish is that carefully recruited, well trained, and properly mentored cops can do both roles equally well like a well-rounded general medical practitioner can do all the basic stuff. We might need medical specialists occasionally, but they are not at the doctors office. They are centralized and leave the bulk of preventive health to the doctor/patient relationship.

    Same type of consolidation applies to the ideal police organization - at least in my view. Centralization for a tiny number of specialists (SWAT, Major Crime, Surveillance, etc) but the bulk (80%) of public safety comes from an organization tiered with public, private, volunteer and civilian roles.

    You are absolutely right - the public doesn't want CSI or True Blue jingoism. They simply want their problem solved, their street safe and their home secure.


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