Spending on cops nearly doubled -- yet crime declined by a third: report
Police fire projectiles at counter-protesters during a rally by the Patriot Prayer group in Portland, Oregon, U.S. August 4, 2018. REUTERS/Bob Strong

Since 1994, crime has declined by nearly one-third, 32 percent, yet, spending on policing has nearly doubled (46 percent). The question "why" comes amid calls to reallocate funding for policing and spend it on public safety instead, Politico reported Friday.


One of the top calls into law enforcement is not crime-related, rather it is mental health-related. With a dramatic decrease in mental health spending, police have been forced to deal with the problems.

A mental illness policy website cited a national survey "of 2,406 senior law enforcement officials (75 percent who were officers longer than 20 years) documents police and sheriffs are being overwhelmed 'dealing with the unintended consequences of a policy change that in effect removed the daily care of our nation’s severely mentally ill population from the medical community and placed it with the criminal justice system.” …This policy change has caused a spike in the frequency of arrests of severely mentally ill persons, prison and jail population and the homeless population…(and) has become a major consumer of law enforcement resources nationwide.'”

It begs the question, why departments that provide security for a town of 10,000 people, are being given armored vehicles to handle policing?

"Studies have shown that an increase in sworn police officers reduces instances of crime. However, increases in other factors — such as social welfare, access to health care, employment and other social services — have also been shown to decrease crime rates. It’s unclear the extent to which increases in police spending are responsible for falling rates of violent crime," said Politico.

“The perception was that the police have a direct relationship with crime, so the more police ... the lower the rate of crime, we thought. But that has not been the case for some time,” said the Texas Southern University Center for Justice Research founding director, Dr. Howard Henderson. “There are other factors that are at play that affect that relationship beyond simply just the police's presence.”

The site compared per-capita spending by towns to show that spending doesn't equate safety.

Arlington, Texas, for example, spent $712, per capita in 2017 and had 5 homicides per 100,000 people. Kansas City, Kansas, by contrast, spent $705 per-capita and had 31 homicides per 100,000 people.

[caption id="attachment_1636460" align="aligncenter" width="553"] Data visualization by Politico[/caption]

As protests call for a reimagining of how to run police departments, there is a greater need for them to justify spending and examine the effectiveness. At the same time, departments with a history of hefty legal settlements after bad officer behavior are being examined with taxpayer demand to control the abusive impulses of so-called "bad apples."

Researchers have proposed a better way of estimating police budges using a cost-benefit analysis, according to the NYU School of Law's Policing Project.

“Helping departments and communities to think about the long-term implications of policy changes, of investments ... whatever it may be, having those conversations upfront, is hugely important,” said researcher director Lauren Speigel.

Read the full report at Politico and see more comprehensive data visualizations.