There has been a backlash to the Black Lives Matter protests and Defund the Police movements. The signs are everywhere saying “Back the Badge”. Republicans are having an event in Owosso this coming weekend to show support for the Police, and they added in other groups such as EMT and Fire.
This framing divides us where there should be no division, in my opinion.
We all support the police and EMT and Fire and our COVID-19 frontliners. We all support justice and the law, literally, with our tax dollars. The defunding issue being discussed is if our society can better spend our tax dollars to get the results we want- equal justice, low crime, and better social services.
What is wrong with taking a look at where our tax dollars are currently spent and seeing if we are getting the best results for the investment?
For example, data shows in my District in Michigan, that some cities/villages have similar per capita crime rates, but some SPEND A LOT MORE $$ on public safety than other local cities/villages. So spending more on public safety does not necessarily mean less crime. And spending less on public safety does not necessarily mean more crime. Spending less on public safety can mean that there will be more $$ for other services people value (without raising taxes).
Here is total public safety spending data for municipalities in just Shiawassee County. This combines Law enforcement and fire.
Then, we can next look at crime levels by county, city, and village.
You can see that it is quite variable. Some cities have similar per capita crime rates but spend a lot more than on public safety than other cities in the county. So spending more on public safety does not necessarily mean less crime. For example, Perry and Laingsburg have similar per capita crime rates ... but Perry spent more than 2x as much on public safety, per capita than Laingsburg. Likewise, Owosso and Durand have similar crime rates, but Durand spends more (the highest) per capita on public safety. This raises a question: could Perry and Durand reduce their public safety expenses to levels comparable to Laingsburg and Owosso (respectively) and shift those saved dollars over to other community services people value?
Compare Vernon & Lennon. Similar crime rates, but Lennon spends a lot more on public safety. Morrice has a higher crime rate compared to other villages; if Morrice wants to lower their crime rate to levels similar to other villages in the county ... should they spend more $$ on public safety (like Lennon) or less $$ (like Vernon, Byron and Bancroft)? If Morrice decided not to spend more $$ on public safety, what could they spend the savings on that would improve local quality of life and reduce crime rates?
This is the common-sense type of conversation we can have at the district, county, and town levels. Of course, there is much more to discuss from the BLM movement beyond this issue of where our tax dollars go and if they are providing ROI, but this is a starting point that I believe should bring us together to improve our societies.
When I see a "We Back the Badge" sign on my neighbor's yards, I feel sad- like they are implying that those of us who want to look at data and improve our society don't appreciate law enforcement.
I'd like us to unite, not divide, and I respect the leaders and representatives that help us as a whole to look at data and that try to improve our communities.