The Question About Crime and Policing That Is Rarely Asked

I didn’t write never asked, because Mitch Ryals asked it! But I’m getting ahead of myself. D.C. (not Wor-Shing-Tun, but D.C.) is in the midst of passing a budget, and one of the controversial items was a request by Mayor Bowser for $11 million to hire 170 police officers. Many members of the Council wanted to spend that money instead on other programs, such as violence interruption. Ultimately, the compromise appears to be $5 million to hire 60 police officers (kind of unclear how exactly the math works on that, but that’s what is being reported), with $6 million for other programs.

But Mitch Ryals asks the question that is rarely, very rarely, asked (boldface mine):

It may be true that some D.C. residents want to see more officers. It may also be true that some don’t. And adding officers to reduce the cost of overtime and provide those already on patrol a needed break may be good reasons to beef up the force.

But what Bowser has failed to produce, and what the Council apparently is not demanding before it approves her call for more officers, is an analysis showing why it needs more officers, and if so, how many.

That’s the question, because non-policing interventions are always assumed to be ‘experimental’ and optional, whereas increasing the number of police is considered proven, even as D.C.’s homicide figures over the last decade suggest otherwise.

Related to that, should we assume that the increase in police should be considered necessary in perpetuity? Would there be a decrease in homicides that would allow us to allocate resources elsewhere? When can we claim victory? Ever?

But this would be very inconvenient, so these questions go unasked, and therefore, unanswered.

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1 Response to The Question About Crime and Policing That Is Rarely Asked

  1. Joseph Shelby says:

    This idea that something is ‘experimental’ is lingering in other ways. There’s still claims that the Covid vaccines approved in the states are “experimental” and that’s a reason, among dozens of others*, why some are hesitant.

    Once something is deemed ‘experimental’ in the minds by the media, that is an attribute that never goes away+. The vaccines have passed their experiments. They work. They are only in experiment phases now for 2-12. For everybody else, they’ve passed.

    But that word never goes away, and with it the anger reaction by some on the ignorant right, “I won’t be part of your experiment”.

    * usually I find a gish gallop of false statements and excuses I don’t have time to argue line-by-line for

    + this is a general conservative problem, of course: the first thing they hear is what sticks, no matter how many times things change since

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