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by Peter Moskos

March 10, 2015

"Generating New Revenue Streams" by policing

Sometimes it's important to remember how you got to Point B from Point A to where you are today.

You don't just stumble into a system like Ferguson's where the city tries to get 30 percent of it's total budget from fines, citations, and court fees. Ferguson isn't unique.

I just stumbled across this article from 2010, writen by a police officer, that lays out the potential of using police for revenue:
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.
Their most prominent recommendations were:
• fees for sex offenders registering in a given jurisdiction,

• city tow companies,

• fine increases by 50 percent,

• pay-per-call policing,

• vacation house check fees,

• public hours at police firing range for a fee,

• police department-run online traffic school for minor traffic infractions,

• department-based security service including home checks and monitoring of security cameras by police department,

• a designated business to clean biological crime scenes,

• state and court fees for all convicted felons returning to the community,

• allowing agency name to be used for advertisement and branding,

• triple driving-under-the-influence fines by the court,

• 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,

• public safety fees on all new development in the city,

• 9-1-1 fee per use,

• police department website with business advertisement for support,

• selling ride-a-longs to the public, and

• police department–run firearm safety classes.
Modeled after other California agencies, the party ordinance allows an administrative citation to be issued at loud parties where the music is plainly audible 50 feet from the property line. The first citation is $100, a second $200, and a third or subsequent citation within 12 consecutive months is $500. The goal of the ordinance is to reduce repeat party calls, improve the quality of life for surrounding residents, and generate a revenue stream to offset the cost of response and enforcement.
It's just so blatant and wrong to see police (or the courts, or prisons) as a source of generating revenue. If you need money, that is what taxes are for.

Anyway, for what it's worth, West Covina, CA, does not seem best to be a particularly bad offender in terms of milking its residents, best I could understand their municipal budget. And some of those ideas above are actually pretty good ideas.


GolFoxtrot Yankee said...

"If you need money, that is what taxes are for."

Isn't that exactly the appeal of turning the police into rent-seekers? The less deserving pay for their 'crimes' and the deserving people (or well-connected in Ferguson's case), pay relatively lower taxes.

That said, the 'party ordinance' is a fantastic idea.

Peter Moskos said...

Yeah. In part it's the ignorant greed of anti-government people who don't want to pay for the government services they receive.

campbell said...

Covina, man, not Corvina.

But yes, figure out what we're going to provide as a service and collect the taxes sufficient to cover that service.

Dan Hogan said...

What do you think about extra taxes on alcohol as a way for paying for the extra policing that it causes? It's a tax on a product just like taxes on gasoline.

Peter Moskos said...

Thanks, Campbell. I corrected it.

Dan, I'm against it. I'm all for higher gas taxes, but I think policing should be paid for out of general funds and not linked to specific products. To do otherwise opens the door to too many shenanigans. And just think how the NRA would oppose it!

Peter Moskos said...

On the other hand, and not directly related, I don't think traffic should be a police matter at all! This isn't about to change, but this idea goes all the way back August Vollmer:

"Inherent in the performance of this task [traffic enforcement] are factors that further handicap them in their relationship to a public whose cooperation is so vitally essential to the maintenance of law and order and the promotion of social security and social wellbeing. Not only does traffic duty reduce the number of policemen available for protection against criminals, but also, traffic violators, who are usually in all other respects law-abiding, are antagonized by censure and arrests for their failure to observe the regulations, and there is thus again created disrespect for law and law-enforcement officials."

Vollmer put traffic in the same category as vice-enforcement as something police shouldn't deal with but had to because a bunch of do-gooders wanted to impose their beliefs on society using police as the enforcers.

Peter Moskos said...

Here's another good quote for Vollmer fans. From his 1936 "Police and Modern Society":

"No intelligent policeman can conceive it to be a duty of his office to tag cars for overtime parking. It is a child's work and consumers times that should be employed profitably otherwise. This duty is detested by policemen because there is associated with the enforcement of parking regulations every form of destructive criticism. Unfortunately for the police, the resentment of the individual who has been tagged for violating parking regulations reaches beyond the particular official who serves the summons to appear in court, to all the members of the force."

He then goes on to mention how bad the system is because those with the right connections can make tickets disappear. Some things never change.