Have we already defunded the police?

Here is more complete data on police expenditures, interesting throughout, via Charles Fain Lehman.  The sociology of this issue I find fascinating.  Usually in Progressive lore, if you defund an agency, you lower its quality and make it all the more dysfunctional.  But in this case, defunding the bureaucracy, namely the police, is supposed to solve the problem.  Is there anywhere a well-worked out model of why this particular bureaucracy might be different from the others?  (Maybe it is, I would gladly link to such an argument!)  Or, dare I say it, is this just mood affiliation and once again…politics isn’t about policy.  I’ll give 4-1 odds on the latter.


TC playing dumb again. A bit tiring to say the least. A) Defunding is the threat to force reform against vested interests B) Defunding the police, not defunding public safety.

Then, why doesn't that work for schools? When government monopoly schools are failing, progressives tell us that means the schools need more money, not threat of defunding through, say, parents taking school choice vouchers elsewhere.

A libertarian would say both are right. Interestingly my randomly selected measure of success (percent of high school graduates attending college vs murder clearance) are nearly the same (69% vs 64% https://www.insidehighered.com/admissions/article/2019/07/08/what-data-show-about-high-school-students-expectations-going-college https://www.governing.com/topics/public-justice-safety/gov-murder-clearance-rates-misleading.html). Both institutions also have powerful unions that resist reform but only one of those unions seems to engage in extortion against politicians who propose reforms.

One difference is that some "defunding" ideas are more similar to proposals to reform college sports by separating the sports from the education (e.g. having a non-police department in charge of traffic infractions, mental health etc).

Which one? When I was growing up the local council passed a contract unfavorable to the teachers to they went on strike and shut down all extracurricular activities for a year and a half. That's extortion. In response the people got pissed and elected more anti-union councilmen, who then caved after this kept on going on.

Police can't strike, but they can punish politicians who disagree by posing a threat to public safety.

Not all high school graduates are capable or willing to attend college.

Half the population has an IQ under 100, which I would argue is probably the minimum for college, if "college" means anything. Then there is some fraction of the capable who are just not interested, for one reason or another.

"One difference is that some "defunding" ideas are more similar to proposals to reform college sports by separating the sports from the education (e.g. having a non-police department in charge of traffic infractions, mental health etc)."

Has anyone done the math on these ideas? I think any proposal to have mental health issues dealt with by non-police social workers would have widespread support among reasonable people, starting with most police themselves! I think most police would also very much like to get out of the business of answering calls from single mothers who are being assaulted or physically threatened by teenage children. Let social workers deal with that, too, and call the police only when things really get out of hand.

This still leaves you with domestic violence, muggings, assorted property crime, and nuisance crime typically associated with alcohol and drugs (noise violations, street fights, vandalism, etc). My impression is that these things take up most of the time of police -- who handles these situations?

There's plenty of real world reasons none of this would work. First off, your idea that teenagers can't pose a serious threat of violence to their parents is ridiculous. Juveniles commit hundreds of murders and thousands of assaults every year. Things getting out of hand isn't something you can predict and know in advance. Things will just suddenly be out of hand, and the police won't be there. If someone says they're in danger, whether from a teen or an adult, shouldn't you be erring on the side of trusting them rather than assuming they're overreacting?

The old saying about "when seconds count, the police are minutes away", could now be replaced by "when seconds count, the social worker is minutes away, and then maybe they can get the cops there a couple hours after that."

And it's the same with most of these situations where people get to use 20/20 hindsight to say the cops were unnecessary. 911 gets a call about someone dangerous threatening people, they don't get a medical history along with it. Maybe he's just a threat to himself, maybe he's a threat to others. You err on the side of not letting someone murder people. And the simple statistics of how many murders are committed each year vs how many unnecessary killings are committed by police makes this decision easy.

Social workers will be maimed or dead within a week of implementing a policy like this on a large scale, and then shortly thereafter will be refusing to go on these calls or demanding a police escort. Maybe that's a better solution, having cops and a social worker go to some of these, but now you're doubling the personnel you need for responses, and how are budget crunched localities going to afford that?

Non-police in charge of traffic is already reality a lot of places. Meter maids are frequently not police. They also get threatened and assaulted all the time. Maybe you want something like that for regular traffic stops as well, but there's lots of serious criminals who get caught because they're driving an illegal car or speeding away from a crime scene. The people who pull them over are in danger and when criminals know the person pulling them over is unarmed, they'll be in more danger, or they just won't pull over.

So maybe then we go to something in between. A hybrid who can protect himself and conduct arrests but is also a trained social worker and is happy to put himself in danger to avoid escalating situations? I think you'll spend a lot on training, pay, and lawsuits, but maybe there's something workable there. Maybe all these people claiming it's really easy to be a cop and force is always unnecessary could apply.

I'm in (apparent?) agreement with you that "defund the police" doesn't make sense. I am saying I have heard police themselves express frustration at having to do family counseling and mental health counseling duties -- it's not something they are qualified for and, in a more functional society, they wouldn't have to deal with them. My point was that even in the best case scenario in which we relieve the police of responsibility for these two types of issues, they still have a lot of work to do and defunding police departments will lead to a big loss in quality of life.

This is a pension battle for limited funds.

Do not be fooled by the rhetoric about police. In Chicago the battle is on, teachers unions vs police unions, and the same battle is heating up in California.

And, no, this battle did not start with the rebellion, the rebellion most likely started because the pension problems were robbing cities of funds they lost liquidity and have little support.

That is the problem, it started in 2008, and got much worse by 2016. Now we have a bunch of flat earthers who claim this is suddenly new. I cannot believe Tyler missed this.

We were, and still are, headed for a huge tax battle over the issue in New York, California and Illinois. And, by the way, we had the same huge tax battle under Obama. This is not new stuff, it did not just start. Why do we fall for this crud, try connecting the dots.

The idea is to connect dots, then we can shove aside the useless economists at UC Berkeley.


California is a pension fund that provides some services as a side effect.

The death of California started in the 70's when Governor Jerry Brown, in his first go round as governor, signed a bill to allow public employees to unionize. The final nail in the coffin was driven by a panicked Governor Gray Davis who approved the absurd 3% at 50 defined benefit pension for all public safety personnel. Every year pension obligations crowds out more and more other spending.

California was once a model state, with virtually free higher education, great community colleges, cheap state universities, and the greatest public research institution on the planet - the UC system. All affordable.

We're augering in.

Pretty clear that some group maximized voter support by changing the mix of "free" stuff they give away.

In Chicago the population is declining with the shrinking of the school-aged population while the demands for police stay high. The schools are fighting the needed reduction. But the pensions for both groups are vastly underfunded in a state with few reserve funds. The move to a progressive income tax with a decline in the quality of life could accelerate exit from the state.

Absent the growth in the Hispanic population Illinois is already seeing a rapidly declining population. They seem to a large degree dependant on the growth of the Hispanic entrepreneurial class and upward mobility of the Hispanic community. Can they do it with an increasing tax burden or will they choose states like Texas.

BTW the University of Chicago undergrads:
Latino. 12.5%
Black. 5.3%
Asian 18.4%
White 42%

"California ... with great community colleges, cheap state universities, and the greatest public research institution on the planet - the UC system."

Often I chortle at Americans wildly overrating their places of education. This is an exception: it was indeed a very fine system in its day, topped off with excellent private universities. Hitler destroyed the German system, universally recognised as the best. Now a different variety of socialist has set about destroying the Californian system.

This is what I have been wondering - what reforms are necessary to remediate our current policing issues, how much will reforms cost (both financially and otherwise), and who will bare the burden? I worry that many of us who call for changes to be made are unwilling to pay for them or compromise on any of our other values/priorities to achieve them. And there is no free lunch.

The anti-tax = "small government" ideology drives much of the growth of government. Instead of raising taxes to pay teachers and police competitive salaries, hide the tax increases as un-funded pension schemes. The coming deficit financed Green New Deal instead of a tax on net CO2 emissions will be a more painful demonstration.

I've noticed, and appreciate, that you are more willing to go against progressive doctrine in these recent late night posts.

Is their status sufficiently lowered such that it is now safe to criticize their most blatant hypocrisies, or are you just fed up enough to test the waters?

Excellent comment, fellow-Ryan.

Mayors, city councils, governors, and state legislatures bear ultimate responsibility for setting and implementing police policies. If they are not doing their jobs, then we should defund government at the top level to send a message. We should have mandatory, across-the-board budget cuts and corresponding tax cuts until government starts delivering brutality-free and effective policing. If government does not solve this problem, then we should cut the allowance that we give them to spend on everything, not just police. To the extent that police brutality is a national problem, then the budget and tax cuts should be applied to the federal government as well. Police brutality is too important an issue to not take serious action now!

What if effective policing sometimes requires the brutality, for intimidation purposes? I recently saw the video of the shooting of Marzues Scott, who attacked a female police officer.

Leaving aside the march of feminism in society, a female police officer should, on average, be a less brutal and intimidating law enforcement officer, yes? But, in this case, her being a woman was likely a factor in Marzues Scott giving in to his impulse for violence. Had this been a pumped up former military guy with a thousand yard stare and built with bricks, he might have intimidated Marzues Scott into compliance or retreat, he might have wrestled him to the ground, or beat him into submission. The woman could only shoot him to save herself. Shooting someone in a struggle is not brutality, it is an abrupt end to the brutality. A little counter-brutality would mean Marzues Scott would be alive today.

Given our current protests I would like to, ask the mob a few questions.

What is the evidence that the actions of the officer in the Floyd case was racially motivated? The mob says the evidence is that the person was a white police officer, they need no other evidence.

Was the arrest of Floyd lawful? There is undisputed evidence that Floyd was passing counterfeit bills.

Did Floyd resist arrest? There is undisputed evidence that Floyd refused to enter the squad car after an arrest. He was a very large man, 6 foot 4 inches with a muscular build who worked as a bouncer. He continued to flop on the ground and officers after repeated efforts to get him off the ground resorted to pain compliance. Pain compliance is routinely used by police against passively resisting suspects. In this case, the officer used his body weight on Mr. Flyod to force compliance. During this process, Mr. Floyd died.

Is there evidence that the officer intended to cause severe bodily damage or death to Mr. Flyod? Was his conduct so reckless that he should have expected his actions to cause severe injury or death? The results of two autopsy show that Mr. Floyd had underlying health issues: heart disease, hypertension, and sickle cell. He was on illegal drugs: fentanyl, methamphetamine, and cannabinoids. He tested positive for COVID. The family's expert who examined the body said that when Mr. Floyd said that he couldn't breathe that could have been from a knee being placed on Mr. Flyod's back and depressing his diaphragm. That would have made breathing difficult. The County medical examiner stated the cause of death was "cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression." The independent examiner hired by the family listed the cause of death as "asphyxiation from sustained pressure." Cross-examination of experts should paint a fuller picture of how these factors combined to contribute to Mr. Floyd's death.

The knee to Mr. Floyd's neck looks horrific but was it done with the intent to cause injury or death? Did the officer act with reckless indifference when he took such action? Should the officer have known that such conduct could lead to injury or death? Criminal intent or motivation normally matter in such cases.

The AG in the case fears that he will be unable to prove intent to kill or harm. Indeed the crimes the officer has been charged with assumes that the death was unintentional. The state instead will need to prove that the officer acted with a "depraved mind" or a disregard for human life. In addition, they have charged him with "felony murder." In that case they can ignore intent and claim that Mr. Floyd died while the officer was committing a felony. What that felony was, or when the officer crossed the line to from lawful to unlawful is unclear. That could be difficult to prove. It is no wonder that the AG is refusing to personally take on this case. He could damage his political career if he loses it.

But the mob doesn't really care what the law or the evidence is in the case. They see the race of the people involved and have demanded a result.

The DA has screwed this up royally by picking murder2. To believe this, you must accept that the cop knew he was killing Floyd and that he didn't care that there were cameras everywhere. In effect, the cop was signing his jail sentence over 8 minutes and he knew it.

Mark Garagos has made an interesting point here on the new charges. If they charged the cop on murder 3, that means he was negligent due to a "depraved state of mind". But the DA wanted to charge the other officers too. How can you do that if you are charging the main guy for basically being crazy in his decision making?

You can't. So, you have to elevate the first charge to murder 2, which means the cop had specific intent and his goal was to kill from the beginning (in spite of the cameras). And then, you can charge the other 3 with aiding and abetting, which they have done.

But this expansion of felony murder liability is viewed poorly in progressive circles, because it is used by bad DAs who want to charge entire groups of people that participated in a crime, all with serious charges that otherwise would not stick. That is, if the bank robber shoots someone inside the bank, should the girlfriend getaway driver also be charged with that murder?

I'm curious about finding an unbiased jury for these (now 4) cases.

Anyone with legal expertise care to comment on what the actual law is in regard to an unbiased jury? And on what normal practice is in very highly publicized cases?

They could ask for a bench trial and hope for a fair judge. They will ask for a change of venue as in the Rodney King case. But then the mob will riot with allegations that a racist community (ie any community that might acquit) is unfair. The truth is they will never get a fair trial.

"But this expansion of felony murder liability is viewed poorly in progressive circles, because it is used by bad DAs who want to charge entire groups of people that participated in a crime, all with serious charges that otherwise would not stick."

This, by the way, is essentially the reason why there were a few libertarian holdouts against the anti-lynching bill going through Congress right now (read Amash and Paul's justifications for not supporting).

I would recommend the Netflix series Flint Town. It is especially relevant now because it shows the frustrations on all sides when you have an overworked and underfunded police department. Residents complain about waiting hours and even days for a police response and cops complain about racing from call to call, working long hours, and just not having the resources or manpower to do everything they set out to do.

It's inevitable that complaints will arise from both ends of the bargain in any circumstances. So what? The fact is that diminishing marginal utility is a factor in law enforcement just as it is anything else. In a town that's never had a cop before the first one is a very big deal. In a city with a police force of 8000 uniformed officers and thousands of administrators one more or less doesn't make a measurable difference to the average citizen or the general safety.

I've never met a public employee who didn't complain all day and get extremely self-righteous about their hard work and noble calling.

But if you want to work hard, you go to the private sector. Everybody knows that. Teaching and policing and rubber-stamping passport applications is drab, thankless work in toxic, cantankerous work environments. But it's easy and you get a lot of days off, and the pay is good. On the other hand, private sector work is typically harder, but more rewarding both in terms of job satisfaction and pay.

All that is to say, I have learned to take public employee complaining with a mine full of salt.

It depends. In well-funded localities with low crime, police can have easy jobs. In much of middle class American suburbia, the main job of police seems to be traffic control, arresting underage drinkers and otherwise cruising around.

On the other hand, a quick google session shows the starting salary for Flint PD is about $36,000 per year. For NYPD, it is $42,000. If people in these places are really there for the money and benefits, it raises the obvious issue that they are scraping the bottom of the barrel and making further cuts is not going to improve the situation.

With public employees, never look at the annual salary as it doesn't include the lush retirement.

If you look at BLS stats on effective hourly pay, that DOES include the retirement benefits. And there you see median cop hourly is $30, or about $60K.

A very large percentage of public employees, especially cops and firemen, aren't so exhausted from their duties that they are unable to structure their schedules to include private sector jobs.

You're making comparisons bereft of context. You don't compare a $36K rookie police job to a $100K management consulting job. You compare a $36K police job to a $36K private-sector job, like a contractor or a landscaper or a machinist or a shipper/receiver or something. Then tell me which is the cushier job. The police job, obviously.

Ricardo agree that series is excellent.

Much of the defunding talk is related to the increasingly expensive militarization of many police departments.

This is from 2017, for those unfamiliar with a police procurement perspective. "A police agency is looking to purchase an armored vehicle. The opposition quickly shouts, “Police don’t need tanks!”

This mantra rises from both ends of the political spectrum when an agency begins its efforts to acquire an armored rescue vehicle. The clamor and discourse may become so loud that the voices of a few will successfully block your acquisition with a barrage of misinformation.

This discourse can be countered by your law enforcement agency by following a careful strategy for successful acquisition. Here are eight keys to keep in mind when proposing the acquisition of an armored vehicle." From a policeone article titled '8 ways to overcome public opposition and acquire an armored vehicle

When the public, the press and politicians say police don’t need tanks, these strategies can help you make that critical purchase'

No it isn't. Actually. I would think that the militarization of the police *should* be driving discontent, but it really does not seem to be. Nor do no-knock raids by SWAT teams and all the other bizarre things American police seem to be doing. None of this has had much traction with either commentators or the public.

Stop and Frisk did. This may be related to this but no one seems to have shown it is.

Defunding the police is ultimately about letting people the Democrats like commit crimes with impunity. It has been pushed by George Soros who openly funds people to run for DA if they promise to stop charging people the Democrats like. The Democrats know that felons mainly vote Blue so they have been pushing to make America safe for felons for some time. This is just more of the same.

'Nor do no-knock raids by SWAT teams and all the other bizarre things American police seem to be doing.'

Tell that to the people in Louisville protesting the death of Breonna Taylor. Though who knows, in your world maybe Soros was funding those Louisville protests too.

What - both of them? This is simply the exception that proves the rule. The usual suspects tried very hard to make something of the Taylor tragedy. But it didn't work for them. They managed to get some very small turn out in a couple of cities. It especially failed to make the leap to the White community in the way that the Floyd video did.

Militarization *should* be an issue. But it really isn't.

The other innocent person shot by the Lousiville police recently was not due to a no knock warrant. You cannot really tell both dead anything.

And of course the Floyd video - almost 9 minutes long - made the jump to the entire world. Taylor's death did not have any video taken involving bystanders begging the police to keep a man from dying in their custody. And honestly, if by usual suspects you mean the mother of the person killed, well, yep, the usual suspects are easily identified.

Don't these protests confirm the need for the toys like the armored cars?

Precisely the opposite, based on two weeks of protesting. DC was a lot more peaceful yesterday than it was on Monday, when the city was filled with armed troops and their equipment.

We might be having a slightly different discussion if American LEO had water cannon vehicles, but they don't (to the best of my knowledge having just done a bit of checking). There is likely a bit of history behind that, unfortunately related to the broad point of the current protests, but water cannon vehicles are not classified as military AFVs.

The American police are not really equipped to handle riots very well, honestly, and the last few decades of adopting military style equipment is not helpful. I remember, from the 1980s, how at the time it was considered best practice that front line riot police not be equipped with guns at all. Things change over time, but the basic idea was that a well equipped and disciplined riot unit of sufficient size, using appropriate tactics (and of course backed up by other units equipped with tear gas, etc) was more than sufficient to handle any mob.

As one can imagine, that approach takes time and resources, without any of the attraction (or immediate gratification) of brandishing assault weapons at protesters.

DC was peaceful not because the National Guard was removed but because someone on the Left realized that burning and looting does not play well with White suburban female voters. So the rioters were told to stop.

Hard to believe someone sitting in Europe thinks that America does a bad job with riot control. Compared to ... France?

Implicitly I guess the idea is that police are mostly net harmful to the general population, or at least become so with too much money on their hands, and thereby, defunding them prevents their ability to do harm.

Seems pretty crazy and out of whack with reality to me, but it would perhaps consistent with the large amount of excess police violence they imagine is being conducted that has no proportionate public safety basis (which is probably in reality ranges from quite small to very small).

'Seems pretty crazy and out of whack with reality to me'

Not living in the U.S., you probably don't realize just how much money the U.S. police spend on their toys - and in increasing amounts. Or the very different historical perspectives involved. www.laweekly.com/the-militarization-of-police-started-in-los-angeles/ from 2014

'This week, much of the public has been aghast at images of police in Ferguson, Missouri, wearing camouflage, driving armored vehicles and aiming assault rifles. This “militarization” of police has been decried and blamed on an influx of cash from the federal drug war and Iraq-era surplus gear.

But the issue of the militarization of cops goes back to the first days of policing in 19th century England, when citizens were fearful of occupying forces and the government took a community policing stance, with cops largely unarmed, says John Buntin, author of L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America's Most Seductive City.

The organization, strategy and tactics of the armed forces were a polar force on policing. And the concept was brought to American law enforcement largely by the Los Angeles Police Department.'

This too is from 2014 linked in the arcticle, from the commander of LAPD's SWAT team - 'Members of the Los Angeles Police Department’s SWAT team agree with the American Civil Liberties Union that the lines between municipal law enforcement and the U.S. military cannot be blurred. The two are clearly distinct in existence and purpose. That distinction is one of the pillars the U.S. founding fathers established in the democracy in order to prevent the emergence of a military state. Equipping a SWAT team with armored vehicles does not result in a militarized posture when proper civilian oversight, policies, training, selection, and accountability processes are in place. While there are occasions when the police mission requires the use of military tactics and equipment in order to contain and control an incident, the SWAT officer’s responsibility remains that of a peace officer and not a soldier. The SWAT teams should never view their mission as one that will become military in nature. The application of negotiation and extraordinary tactics that diminish the necessity to use force should always be the primary objective of the SWAT team. The SWAT ethos is about respect for human life and protecting and defending the U.S. Constitution and laws.' Sounds like that commander will not be voting for Trump in 2020, though he is also unlikely to want to give up his armored vehicles.

I tend to assume posts under this sort of moniker are mainly prior postings, in which case I would counter that living in Germany for 20-30 years or something and on a diet of Der Spiegel and its kindred probably doesn't give too much advantage in insight to you either.

I suspect they spend money in "toys" is both overrated and because equipment is effective and actually allows them to suppress crime on the margin, not because they have enormous free budgets available after payroll is accounted for.

I think if you defund, police would probably cut a lot of frontline policing that presents more risk to officers, and just cut staffing numbers, not "toys".

The again, maybe not. Crime is often insensitive to austerity in short term. Seems out of left field to see the left arguing for austerity to give public services discipline on their core mission.

People who do not live in the U.S. often have a remarkably rose colored view of the U.S., even as they can see on video how protests are being handled.

'Public awareness and coverage of police militarization has largely focused on the acquisition of military equipment by police, such as armored vehicles, aircraft, and weapons. Since the early 1990s, the Department of Defense’s 1033 program has provided local law enforcement agencies access to military-grade equipment. This program, now expanded by President Trump after President Obama attempted to limit its use, allows local law enforcement agencies to receive excess Department of Defense equipment that would otherwise be destroyed because it was no longer useful to the military. Over 8,000 law enforcement agencies have utilized the 1033 program to access more than $6 billion worth of military equipment such as night-vision goggles, machine guns, armored vehicles, bayonets, grenade launchers, and military aircraft. Other items that can be accessed by local law enforcement agencies through the program include field packs, canteens, sleeping bags, and ponchos.

The increased use of military equipment has coincided with an increased use of military tactics, such as SWAT teams and no-knock raids, by law enforcement agencies. In recent years, police departments from Ferguson, Charlotte, and Southampton have received criticism for their use of military tactics. One study found that use of paramilitary-style teams by law enforcement increased by more than 1,400 percent since 1980.' www.charleskochinstitute.org/issue-areas/criminal-justice-policing-reform/militarization-of-police/

I recommend reading the entire link - written by people who are not 'woke' in the least, except in opposing the steady expansion of police militarization. The U.S. is a true outlier among English speaking countries when it comes to law enforcement. To adapt an old American expression - "a billion on AFVs and machine guns and grenade launchers here, a billion on AFVs and machine guns and grenade launchers there - at some point it adds up to real money."

You can't talk about the "militarization" of the LAPD without the historical context of the North Hollywood shootout.

People need to decide what they want from police. Do they want a force that is capable of stopping terrorists, mass shooters, and other assorted criminals armed with automatic weapons? If so, they need a SWAT team or else SWAT-style teams run by the county or state that can be deployed on short notice.

There is something to be said for the overuse of military-style equipment in local police departments or county sheriff departments. But anyone who says this equipment and the SWAT teams who depend on them should not exist needs to give their plan for how law enforcement should handle situations such as the North Hollywood shootout, the Mumbai terrorist attacks, or even the recent mass shooting in Jersey City that happened just six months ago that everyone seems to have forgotten about.

That shoot out happened three decades after LAPD put together its SWAT team. And a decade after it started using an armored vehicle battering ram. And five years after the LA Rodney King riots.

Let me adapt your quote a tiny bit - 'needs to give their plan for how military law enforcement should handle situations such as the Fort Hood mass shooting' Guess what? The military did not respond to that incident by starting to spend money on military equipment and tactics to deal with such incidents - after all, they already had them. They simply accepted the fact that occasionally things will happen that cannot be prevented by use of military grade equipment and tactics.

No law enforcement officers on the scene in the North Hollywood incident had an automatic weapon at their disposal.

Your plan for the police when they are confronted with heavily armed adversaries is to just accept the circumstances and do the best they can. If enough people agree with you, you will get your way. But no gloating the next time a mass shooting happens and the police take too long to stop it.

Yes, I think the police doing the best they can is realistic. No one was gloating after what happened at Ft Hood. And the Army response was not to have an armed and fueled Apache attack helicopter on the flight line 24/7/365 ready to light up any heavily armed adversaries either.

And considering just how badly trained American police are when it comes to markmanship or fire discipline, them not having automatic weapons is fine by me. This 2013 Cleveland case is particularly notable, as two unarmed people were killed in a literal hail of gunfire - "Brelo’s trial resulted froma police chase on 29 November 2012, when Malissa Williams and Timothy Russell led police on a 20-minute pursuit that involved 60 police cars and about 100 police officers. The chase began when their car, a 1979 Chevy Malibu, apparently backfired as it passed police headquarters in downtown Cleveland. The noise was mistaken for a gunshot.

Williams, 30, and Russell, 43, were boxed into a middle-school parking lot when 13 Cleveland police officers fired 137 shots into the car in an 18-second volley. Brelo fired the most – 49 shots total – including 15 at the end of the barrage while standing on the hood of the car, aiming at the pair through the windshield. Even though a dozen other officers fired 88 bullets into the car, only Brelo was charged." As a note - Brelo was a former Marine who served in Iraq.

We don't know what the Army's response to Fort Hood *would* *have* been. We do know what the Obama's administration's response was. They declared it a work place incident that only racists would talk about.

It is also odd to hear people disfavorably comparing America's police to those of the rest of the West. It is not as if the police in France do not have armor. And are perfectly willing to beat people to death if the need arises. I am willing to bet the police in Germany have a whole range of military equipment too depending on what you count as police.

This is a bit of the convoluted post. Dr. Cowen is clearly of the belief that reduced funding should not lead to dysfunction.

But is that not exactly what the data would suggest?

On the other hand, the word "dysfunctional" is a strawman's word. Progressives' arguments to reduce funding for the police have noting to do with proper "functioning" or its opposite, "dysfunction", i.e., whether well-run. or not. It has to do with "abuse", whether the police do that efficiently or not.

Progressives would be willing to fund functional, non-abusive police departments.

That is a post to make you dizzy. Calls to defund the police are actually calls to fund the police.

nice to see tyler completely disregard the policy changes made in the past week alone, and feign ignorance of the protestors actual demands.
for such an infovore somehow he lacks the capacity to consume that information

"Defund the police" must be polling pretty badly, if we've already moved on to "obviously, that's not what we really mean."

What are those demands again? What are the policy changes? And the calls to defund the police is not one of the demands?

"Is there anywhere a well-worked out model of why this particular bureaucracy might be different from the others? "

I think that a set of posts on this blog have answered this question as a "yes."

The police have more ability to hold a city hostage than any agency save perhaps the MTA/water/electric. Police stop working and allow riots in the streets, or start assaulting individuals, or riot themselves, to avoid regulation and accountability. It's happened historically and it's happened this week, and it will continue. Critically, with the police it appears to be the unions that are the #1 obstacle.

Historically, City Light hasn't used brownouts to avoid regulation, nor has the water company turned off the tap to prevent water testing. Neither has a union. The MTA is expensive, but most of its abuses are of a different kind (of course, the unions are a major factor in those costs as well). A work slowdown by the teachers, where they show up but don't really teach anything, would be hard to notice, but with the midtown looting the police's absence was very intentionally visible.

"Blame the union" is not itself a model, but if a union controls a monopoly on law enforcement services, then the union is going to take some remuneration in the form of job security and long-term self-perpetuation.
Preferential legal treatment or even impunity, shielding of citizen complaints, and permissive use-of-force rules are all part of this.

Yeah, it didn't seem particularly complicated to me. The idea is countervailing power, rather than unions or bureaucracy per se. But apparently Tyler has never heard of John Kenneth Galbraith's 1952 book American Capitalism.

The pandemic is trashing the state and city budgets so the police and teachers are seeing cuts. Look at the numbers, in some cities the police make up more than half the city budget. This was never sustainable to begin with and the pandemic was the last straw.

Big increases in asset forfeiture and fines for traffic and parking violations are on their way.

So in cities with big police budgets, they can afford the decline in tax revenues as people flee for safer locations. Not to mention the increased cost for private security, insurance costs etc. We can all live like some South American countries or South Africa.

That graph is useless because we cannot see what's happened to police and correction spending due to the tiny scale.

What we can see from the graph is that "other spending" has not quite tripled.

With no help from the graph, we have to rely on the internet, where we learn "From 1977 to 2017, state and local government spending on police increased from $42 billion to $115 billion (in 2017 inflation-adjusted dollars)."

I.e. not quite tripled. I suspect that corrections spending has increased by about the same amount; it rose sharply in the 1980s and 1990s thanks to concerns about crime, gangs, crack epidemics, super-predators, three strikes laws, etc. but I presume has slowed its growth since then thanks to over two decades of generally declining crime rates.

Until they come up with a better graph or show us a table of statistics, it sounds like spending on police and and corrections has risen at about the same rate as other spending. Both have not quite tripled.

A crappy graph -- a perfect example of how to lie with statistics.


+1, whether austerity for the police is a good idea or not, anyone who presents *either* a graph like this or a graph that normalizes to year 0, in isolation, is essentially going to be trying to sell you something...

Don't like to see that 4 percent of state and local direct general expenditures go to the police consistently for the last 40 years, so attack the graph.

And I guess the politicians are completely unresponsive to spending how the voters want. Basterds


Showing that graph on a linear scale is inexcusable. Here it is on the appropriate logarithmic scale.


Same data source. In the "Other Spending" category I also exclude expenditure for interest payments on general debt, and general expenditures that are not allocated by function.

Visualize it like that and it:

- supports the known increase in incarceration through the 80s, followed by plateau
- does not support an increase in police funding that would lead to "over-policing", assuming policing rises in costs as much as spending overall.

The unions did it! https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/06/us/police-unions-minneapolis-kroll.html Oddly enough, and contrary to what one would expect (because fewer people are out and about), police violence actually spiked during the lockdown. If shops that sell sex toys had been considered "essential" and, therefore, allowed to stay open, it may have quelled the police violence (by producing a less sexually frustrated police force). https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/07/style/sellers-of-sex-toys-capitalized-on-all-that-alone-time.html Let freedom (to sell sex toys) ring! On most subjects, this blog has a very nuanced view; after all, it's called "marginal" revolution not "maximum". But not all subjects.

It seems illogical that police violence would spike during the lockdown, but then I read a guest op/ed by a member of the class of 2020 who, like the rest of the class of 2020, has no prospects. He writes this:

"People of all generations have left college unemployed, and it’s certainly nothing to be ashamed of. But how many have seen their entire vision for the future shift before their eyes? How many have felt unsafe to venture out into the world? In the past, amid such tragedy, one could expect to turn to their friends and community — except that this pandemic, by nature, drives people apart."


Graph sucks. Quote is from the article.

" However, as a percentage of direct general expenditures, police spending has remained consistently at just under 4 percent for the past 40 years."

So police spending has not been defunded. Also, I find it pretty disingenuous to lump in corrections spending with police spending.

Agree Steve. The chart Tyler included is very misleading given the initial starting point. If it has remained a consistent part of the budget moving through time it's hard to argue that it has been defunded.

It wasn't. Corrections spending stayed at 3%

Here's a "marginal" look at police spending: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/06/would-defunding-police-make-us-safer/612766/

Motte and Bailey.

Motte: "Even small town police forces have tear gas and armored vehicles. This expenditure is ludicrous."

Bailey: "Progressive theory says the act of policing is systemic racism in and of itself. All cops are bastards. Off with their heads."

In action:

Conservative: "I see you just spray painted on that looted Apple store that you think all cops should get the guillotine, and you're screaming for pig blood in the streets."

Progressive: "That's ridiculous. White nationalists did the looting, that spray can is a tool of the patriarchy, and I'm merely trying to have a sensible budgeting discussion."

I'm all for de-funding and disbanding the police. Wealthy communities can hire Blackwater. Not-so-wealthy communities will get by using McMichaels with shotguns. Or the Latin Kings or Black Panthers, depending.

And Title VII, that s*** will be history.

These sorts of private security arrangements offer additional cost savings - there will be much less need for the slow and expensive formalities of courts, or incarceration for that matter. The Latin Kings, for example, are not known for their commitment to rehabilitation.

The slogan ‘defund the police’ does have merit, if not readily apparent.

Keith Ellison, Mn Attorney General who will be prosecuting the George Floyd murder trial, gives context to the slogan in this clip from Friday night (min 5:00) https://www.tpt.org/almanac/video/attorney-general-ellison-on-george-floyd-investigation-37832/

The goal of the movement is to imagine how to put safety and security as the central objective. Think of the slogan to defund the police as cutting off the old ways and starting with new ways. Or, if you are an optimist like me, the dismantling is the dismantling of the wall that has kept the black community penned in, and not allowed for the natural flow of activity between community and official forces to work together towards the safe-streets objective.

Keith Ellison’s son, Jeremiah Ellison, is a city councilman representing the heart of black community in North Minneapolis. He was the only politician (from where I was watching) that was out in his neighborhoods the first nights of unrest. He looked to defuse trouble, promote safety and protect local businesses. You can see him on Twitter @jeremiah4north. While the mayor and the governor stayed stashed away inside (I don’t think the mayor emerged until Sunday, the first morning without smoke hanging over the city), this guy is out in his neighborhood organizing his community.

The Leslie Redmond of the NAACP was also out in this neighborhood, working with the local police as seen here: https://twitter.com/V_Wilson_mn/status/1267827893012320259?s=20

The thought that a social problem solved is a social problem defunded, is correct. We are defunding the social problem of two policing methods, one that divides services between two racial groups. That problem is solved, as there is no one (in the world) who can deny that blacks have been policed differently.

There will be funding needed for the police force that works and treats the entire population uniformly. As a better working system, however, there should be considerable efficiencies that generate social as well as financial gains. One of the financial gains that Jeremiah Ellison points out is the millions of dollars in payouts that the City of Minneapolis has done to cover settlements and payouts for police behavior: https://twitter.com/jeremiah4north/status/1269022888159580164?s=20

He is a leader worth watching.

Yes, we need to be policed by Antifa. How did Baltimore workout after the riots and a fetal police department? Elijah Cummings was out trying to keep the peace during those riots. Didn't make much difference afterward

Some internal polls show that Trump might win Minnesota. White suburban women don't like images of looting and arson. And the Trump base is heading to the polls. Talks about defunding police don't play with those voters.

Regulating is not about getting it right
“The problem with risk weighted bank capital is that assets assigned the lowest risk, for which capital requirements are therefore low or nonexistent, are those that have the most political support, sovereigns, residential mortgages.” Paul Volcker, 2018

Steven Pinker recounts in a book 20 years ago his discussion with de-policing with his parents, and how one day in Montreal the opportunity to see it in action came to be when the cops went on strike.

The inverse is true as well. When law enforcement vanishes, all manner of violence breaks out: looting, settling old scores, ethnic cleansing, and petty warfare among gangs, warlords, and mafias. This was obvious in the remnants of Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union, and parts of Africa in the 1990s, but can also happen in countries with a long tradition of civility. As a young teenager in proudly peaceable Canada during the romantic 1960s, I was a true believer in Bakunin's anarchism. I laughed off my parents' argument that if the government ever laid down its arms all hell would break loose. Our competing predictions were put to the test at 8:00 a.m. on October 17, 1969, when the Montreal police went on strike. By 11:20 a.m. the first bank was robbed. By noon most downtown stores had closed because of looting. Within a few more hours, taxi drivers burned down the garage of a limousine service that had competed with them for airport customers, a rooftop sniper killed a provincial police officer, rioters broke into several hotels and restaurants, and a doctor slew a burglar in his suburban home. By the end of the day, six banks had been robbed, a hundred shops had been looted, twelve fires had been set, forty carloads of storefront glass had been broken, and three million dollars in property damage had been inflicted, before city authorities had to call in the army and, of course, the Mounties to restore order.99 This decisive empirical test left my politics in tatters (and offered a foretaste of life as a scientist).

the blm riots 3-4 years ago petered out after
activists started activily stalking and shooting law enforcement officers

Here's three peaceful protesters who tracked police officers home and tried to firebomb their cars ...


It’s not gay if the black guy fucking you is under seven inches.

For all you opinionated non-experts on the police...from 2015:


The police career system is more complex than you think. Here in Connecticut and elsewhere, big city departments get new recruits directly from the academies. They get fairly high pay and if they last can get their pensions in 20-22 years. These pensions pay from the day of retirement. They then go to smaller suburban departments at lower pay but with pensions a really good take home. Also this serves as a military style up and out scheme. Few people can take the higher speed of a big city beat as they get older. There aren’t enough desk jobs for them to move to. This pulls experience away from the big cities but helps them manage people. Fundamentals still count, less crime particularly in the traditional burglary, robbery , assault or public disturbance areas can allow lower police presence.

Many urban centers fail to attract new applicants. Even at relatively high pay. New candidates fail drug screens and background checks at increasing rates. In a strong economy, many look elsewhere for jobs. After the latest troubles who would want the job?

A better way to defund the police and reduce many government agencies is to legalize drugs, prostitution, non-government gambling and a multitude of other victimless crimes. The decriminalization of drugs in many states should already be showing statistics justifying the reduction in police and correctional funding.

Why not bond reform has decriminalized shoplifting and most other minor property crimes. Recently we have decriminalized looting and arson. Just hire your own security or get a gun.

The argument obviously isn't that we need better policing, hence defunding, it's that we need less policing. Its a compromise with police abolition.

Now if you're debating this strawman maybe you could also consider how your own motivated reasoning, 'mood affiliation ' for you fancy lads, could lead you to so completely miss your opponent's actual argument.

It was both too radical and too fundamental for you to process.

Try to post this again, this time making sense

Try reading it again. Then, make an actual argument.

Clicking on the link, the graph that Tyler takes out is preceded by the above statement;
From 1977 to 2017, state and local government spending on police increased from $42 billion to $115 billion (in 2017 inflation-adjusted dollars). However, as a percentage of direct general expenditures, police spending has remained consistently at just under 4 percent for the past 40 years.
What is the other spending that dwarves the police expenditures? Medicaid.
Should our police expenditures be benchmarked to Medicaid? No, it is an irrelevant point.
Raw numbers, inflation adjusted police expenditure has growth at 2.5% per year (115 bn 2017 vs 42 bn 1977) while population has only grown 1.0% per year (327m 2017 vs 219m 1975). We can understand the drivers further but saying this represents defunding is inaccurate.

The point is that police budgets are not a huge expenditure for most communities compared to the overall budget. It remains about 4%

The title of Tyler's post is "Have we already defunded the police?". The answer is no based on the data set he references.

Amen! Also, I bet these numbers don’t include pension wages as being pet of policing. And why are we including all state spending in these numbers? And K-12 spending too? Most policing is at the municipal level. Please show me these numbers with just municipal expenditures. But even if I agree with Tyler that defunding is a bit silly and goes against how progressives talk about funding and competence in other bureaucracies, this graph isn’t really telling us anything. Hot take empiricism.

Yeah, I don't see Grandpa Joe or any local Mayor going around with a huge push to defund the police as a coherent policy position - I'm sure they really could care less other than empty rhetoric for the young, woke, economically meaningless, non-voter "stakeholders."

Can't wait to see the city coffers after the post riot lawsuits! Great time to live in the city.

Can't/Won't touch their pension a-bombs but will eek by with fed bailouts but have credit ratings on par with Afghanistan.

But see Alex's recent post at https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2020/06/revisiting-camden.html. Maybe we need to defund some existing police departments and recreate them with a different culture and different work rules.

I don't think you're making a good faith response to the real argument.

(1) There are many functions of the police people would like to see simply eliminated - broken windows policing, stop and frisk, enforcement of minor drug infractions, etc. Many would also like to see the purchasing of military grade equipment curtailed or eliminated, which can be directly controlled by the budget. That's very different than an institution people believe serves a necessary function, but may need greater resources to perform it well.
(2) Those who argue for defunding believe many of the remaining functions of the police could be better performed by alternative models - mental health issues, substance abuse issues, homelessness, etc - even traffic infractions - could be handled by social services personnel specifically trained in those areas, rather than by armed combatants trained almost exclusively in enforcement, compliance and violence. Total spending may or may not decrease, but resources would be diverted elsewhere.

Defunding may or may not be an optimal policy. Maybe it would be better to increase spending to improve training, require boydcams, create legal institutions for handling misconduct, etc. All the options should be considered. But we should engage with the idea fairly and respectfully.

In "defund the police" news - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-52960227

"Minneapolis council pledges to dismantle police department"

"the process of setting up a new system will probably take months, and is not guaranteed because of the mayor's opposition". Turns out it only takes months to train and create a new police system... Oh well, guess those complaints about too short training periods for police didn't mean much.

"director of the Minnesota-based campaign group Black Vision, said: "It shouldn't have taken so much death to get us here. We're safer without armed, unaccountable patrols supported by the state hunting black people."" - it does indeed seem that some will thing they're safer without the police, and that the police are more harmful than crime.

Perhaps the revolutionary vanguard militia will be the replacement. Natural experiments.

Local accelerationism is a good way to test what people really want.

(Bonus: Local Somali refugees be like "Anarchy for dinner, again? Time to pack the refugee bags once more..."?).

Your comment about the Somali refugees having to re refugee was spot-on and totally funny!

My understanding is that the idea is that the police are expected to do too much right now: there are few other kinds of organizations to handle problems like gangs (offering alternatives, helping people to leave gangs, etc), drug addiction, etc. Instead, the answer is to arrest the kids (or adults) and throw them in jail.

The "defund the police" movement is saying: let's cut back on the jobs - and the budget - of the police, and instead fund alternatives, so that the police only have to worry about stopping murderers and rapists and thieves, and other organizations can deal with the rest of it. This should also help improve the relationship between the police and the community.

This is counter-intuitive. Police reform is likely to cost more than business as usual. Take, malpractice insurance for police officers. We'll need to pay police more to accept the increased liability/insurance premiums.

Tyler, I believe it's 100:1 of mood affiliation vs. model. (I think you do, too, but are too politically correct cowardly diplomatic to say so)

Are you willing to bet on this? You get to decide on how to measure both metrics (amount of mood affiliation, amount of model) -- but you have to blog it publicly.

Even if it's not me -- how would you give odds on the difference between a 4:1 belief and a 100:1 belief -- where there should be a bet, for $50 (or $10, $20, $100) and some measure that could be agreed upon.

We all know it's mostly mood affiliation - what metric would show it?

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