I was alarmed to read an article in Police Chief magazine titled 'Generating New Revenue Streams'. (A tip o' the hat to reader Mike S. for sending me the link.) It dates from 2010, but the points it raised have become more widespread since then - disturbingly so. The article calls for police departments to actively seek to raise money through new charges imposed on the public and profit-making activities, to relieve the pressure on city budgets. Here's a brief excerpt.
Five years ago, the current state of the economy facing cities and counties was not even a concern. Now, however, many law enforcement agencies are facing the reality of severe budget cuts, reduced workforce, and the elimination or reduction of many law enforcement programs. Today, police chiefs are being asked to look for ways of economizing, increasing efficiency, eliminating redundancies, and finding revenue sources.
This trend will be prompted in two possible ways. First, increasing financial pressure will require more severe budget cuts to the point that many agencies will be able to provide only basic services. Second, cities will begin to see successes at nearby agencies and look to new revenue streams as a panacea to forestall reduced services or even bankruptcy. Based on the research for this article, there is a clear presumption of need for law enforcement to generate new income streams. A first necessary step in that process is to examine possible revenue-generating ideas.
There's more at the link.
Among many ideas for revenue generation, the article lists the following:
- fees for sex offenders registering in a given jurisdiction
- city tow companies
- fine increases by 50 percent
- pay-per-call policing
- police department-run online traffic school for minor traffic infractions
- a designated business to clean biological crime scenes
- resident fee similar to a utility tax
- tax or fee on all alcohol sold in the city
- tax or fee on all ammunition sold in the city
- 9-1-1 fee per use
I'm very concerned about these ideas. I've already run into one of them locally. Last year, for the first time ever since I came to this country, I was given a ticket for speeding. The officer concerned did not show me any proof of my speed, despite my denial that I was exceeding the limit, and told me brusquely that I could challenge it in court if I wished. When I tried to do so, I was informed (rudely) that I would have to pay court costs even if I won - and those court costs would be higher than the cost of simply settling the matter, paying an administrative fine, and doing an online traffic school. I spoke to a lawyer, who had quite a lot to say (none of it positive) about the fundamental unfairness and built-in injustice of the scheme. Basically, one had no guarantee of winning in court, as it was an officer's word against a citizen's, and the court would favor the officer's word as a matter of course. He suggested I take the simple, less costly way out, pay the administrative fine and do the online course. Reluctantly, I eventually did - but I still resent the blatant injustice of the situation.
I regard the article's suggestions as a real threat to the impartiality and independence of law enforcement personnel. It'll be a lot harder to know whether they're genuinely trying to prevent crime, or raising money for their department. That's not a good place for law enforcement to be - and an even worse place for us, the citizens of this country, in our dealings with those who are supposed to serve and protect us and our society.