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by Peter Moskos

March 1, 2010

Flint needs police!

You may know Flint, Michigan, from "Roger and Me". In many ways, Flint is typical of America's struggling small cities. It's 2000 population, just over half African-American, was 125,000 (so it's probably down to about 110,000 right now). Flint has about 35 homicides a year, disproportionatly concentrated in its north side ghetto. Thirty-five homicides puts Flint in the same league as Baltimore, at least when it comes to murder.

Michael East, Saginaw, Michigan police officer and author of the excellent Beyond Hope?, sent me this link responding to the mayor's plan to lay off police officers.

Now I don't know Flint Mayor Dayne Walling from Adam, and I've never been to Flint, but if the police officer in the video is being straight with us, that tow deal sounds shady.

What I find more amazing is the fact that Mayor Walling wants to reduce the police force to 120 officer. That's a rate of 109 per 100,000 citizens. By comparison (don't hold me to these numbers, they're rough and corrections are welcome), New York city had about 410. Baltimore 450. Chicago 500 (Does Chicago really have more officers per capita than NYC now? That's news to me). Los Angeles, always on the low end, has about 260 officers per 100,000.

Flint's 120 police officers for a city of 110,000 is scarily low! Especially for a city with a lot of crime. Remember, as a rule of thumb, at any given time 1/6 of officers are working and 1/2 of those are on patrol That's just 10 officers for any given shift!

Flint needs more cops. That's clear. But of course, given their dire straights (and it's not like I'm giving Flint any money), perhaps this a great opportunity for something truly radical!

How about unplugging Flint's police force from the 911 system? Alas, the mayor says he can reduce response time, so I don't have much hope.

A dozen officers on the street simply cannot answer 911 calls and do anything else. Period. So what is more important? Chasing the radio or real police work. I say real police.

What if one city would let polices officer actually be police officers, free to patrol and prevent crime (mostly on foot or bike) instead of being slaves to the radio, serving as glorified report writers, and chasing every last prank call to 911. Response time matter for fire and ambulance. Very rarely for police.

Why not try it? It's not like Flint has much choice.


Richard P. said...

Again St. Louis, ranked in the top five for per capita murders, has 1400 officers for 355,000 people. That is about 400 per 100,000.

This link gives the numbers http://www.kmox.com/Black-police-group-says-racism-rampant-in-city-pol/6260012

PCM said...

Of course what really matters is what officer do, not how many there are.

But still, Flint's proposed numbers, about 100 officers per 100,000, are shockingly low!

Stryc9 said...

You forgot about my humble little police department down in Texas. Houston had a meager 213 officers per 100,000, and that was in 2006. We have lost even more officers since then.

It always amazes me how Houston is the 3rd or 4th largest city (depending on who you ask and how they count) in America but is somehow always left out of discussions about major cities.

PCM said...

Houston is a big city? I just thought it was a place the Astos play.

Sarge said...

More police are definitely needed!