Over on the other blog I’ve been writing about a proposal for a regional police department for a few Slate Belt towns that actually seems to have a good chance of passing.
Regional police departments are a good idea in normal times, but they’re an especially good idea during this time of austerity budgeting at the state and local level. That’s because you can maintain the same level of service with less money and fewer employees.
This is a key point because I think that the level of service is really the most important issue with public sector budget cuts.
Some people view the public sector as a sort of make-work jobs program, and I think that’s mistaken. The public sector is there to provide useful and necessary services that the private market either does not provide, or does not provide enough of. We should be trying to provide those services at the lowest cost possible, so that we can provide even more services per taxpayer dollar.
There is no virtue in employing more people than it actually takes to deliver the services.
This disagreement within the liberal camp seems likely to be a flashpoint in further efforts to regionalize police services, as we are seeing now in Camden.
Camden is disbanding its city police force, and will be policed by a County police force.
I think this is a clear progressive win. Not only will police service in Camden be improved, with increased regional coordination improving police productivity, but the costs will be lower, and will be paid out of a regional tax base that includes areas that are wealthier than Camden. Regionalizing the tax base for police services at the County level is a progressive redistribution of wealth.
Unfortunately, a coalition of public sector unions and parochial interests are fighting the County force plan and trying to scare people about it.
They are trying to hold out for a city force with higher pay and benefits, even though the only option for the city to get a higher level of police coverage is to go with the County force. That’s what’s most important – adequate levels of service and crime control. If the choices are more cops for less money or fewer cops for more money, I think more cops is obviously the correct choice.