by Jon Guze
Senior Fellow, Legal Studies, John Locke Foundation
That’s the title of a recent Fox 8 report. Among other distressing statistics, the report states that “In Raleigh, 102 of 800 police office officer positions are vacant” and “Sometimes Durham Police shifts are only 50 percent staffed.” It also notes that there are currently 65 unfilled openings at the Winston-Salem PD and another 45 at Greensboro PD, and that Goldsboro, where 28 of 108 positions are currently open, has the highest vacancy rate in the state. Given that homicide rates spiked last year, and given that homicide rates are still rising, this is very bad news indeed. Here in North Carolina, and across the country, what we need are more police officers, not fewer.
In a recent policy report published by the John Locke Foundation I explain why we need more police. Simply put, police presence deters crime, and when crime is deterred everyone benefits. From the report’s Conclusion:
The death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, sparked an extraordinary wave of anti-police protests and elicited many proposals for improving America’s criminal justice system. Some of those proposals … are good ideas that ought to be pursued. The proposal to “defund the police,” however, is unwise and ought to be taken off the table.
Far from solving problems like police misconduct and overincarceration, reductions in police spending will make those problems worse and will, moreover, inflict additional harm on the communities that have already been harmed the most by the turmoil that followed Floyd’s death. Deploying more active-duty police officers in high-crime, high-disorder communities, on the other hand, will result in fewer crimes. Fewer crimes will mean fewer arrests and convictions. And fewer arrests and convictions will mean lower levels of incarceration.
Similarly, higher pay scales for police will attract a larger and better-qualified pool of applicants to police programs. A larger and better-qualified pool of applicants will reduce the incentive for police programs to keep or rehire bad actors and improve the overall level of professionalism. And police officers who maintain higher professional standards will be less likely to misbehave.
Finally, lower crime rates and more professional policing will make it easier to rebuild the neighborhoods that have suffered the most from the recent unrest.
If we want to save Black lives and help poor people escape from poverty, and if we want to ensure that the current spike in violent crime does not spiral out of control, we must stop vilifying the police and calling for cuts in police funding. These things make matters worse for everyone, especially Blacks and the poor. Instead, we should:
Hire more police officers
Pay them higher salaries
Provide them with state-of-the-art training and support
Deploy them as “peacekeepers” in communities that suffer high levels of crime and disorder
For more information see “Keeping the Peace: How Intensive Community Policing Can Save Black Lives and Help Break the Cycle of Poverty.”
H/T: Jessica Smith.