Thursday, January 31, 2013

Theory on the Rise of Police Pay + Benefits

To serve and protect. The police cars of America usually have this slogan slapped on their side. It wasn't always the case. Hollywood still loves a good dirty cop movie or storyline for one of the many police procedurals on television. Do we ever hear about a ring of dirty cops anymore? Coppers on the take is an old cliche, but it isn't like police corruption is a problem. Looking at crime, whatever happened to organized crime? It isn't a major problem in the news media. Sure cities have gang problems, but it's not like the Gambino crime family's noontide. Mexico is a problem for gangs and drug trafficking, but why should we bother with that when we can focus on the middle east some more. The problem cited most consistently about the police is now pay and promised benefits. No more big mafia style families. No more police corruption investigations, but we have a problem with police wages and benefits. If we want to continue our war on drugs the way it is and have a clean police force (or minimally dirty), then we will have to pay the police nice wages and provide good benefits.

America from the days of prohibition to the major RICO prosecutions of the '80s had an organized crime problem that the government fought in any way, shape or form. The FBI hammered away at the gangsters for years. President Kennedy sent his brother after the mob in the 1960s, which is ironic considering the sources of help he received to win in '60. Bobby Kennedy was so zealous going after the mob that some mobsters joked that they had killed the wrong Kennedy. Organized crime was attacked with RICO, which is an awfully cute way to go after an organization one wants to take down. Applying the crime of one mobster to the men up the chain was a nice way to slap drug charges on old bosses who received kickbacks, protection or just 'employed' guys who were dealing on the side. They couldn't move massive quantities of alcohol or drugs alone.

The odd parallel track with organized crime's rise and then dismantling was the focus on police corruption best exemplified by Frank Serpico and the NYPD. It shouldn't be a surprise that in tandem with Kennedy's attacks on the mafia that cities went after dirty cops. The infrastructure of protection and bribery was dismantled. The Knapp Commission determined how deep and wide the corruption went. In the '70s, the city also entered a huge fiscal crisis and had to layoff tons of cops. It is a nice two step process: wipe away corrupt cops you know are dirty and then fire a bunch of cops due to financial reasons but just in case they were dirty, well now they are gone. Clean up cops, fire tons of cops, and then NYC becomes hell hole. NYC's descent into the evil yet sexy Disneyland that people envision after watching "Cruising", "The Warriors" or reading "Ladies and Gentlemen the Bronx is Burning" is during the aftermath of the cop clean up and massive layoffs.

Police hiring, aggressive police tactics, and community watch programs help, but nothing speaks to a human like money. The cities needed to pull in citizens. They could only do that with a police presence far above the '70s and '80s presence. Large cities like NYC would only rebound if they hired cops and paid them enough to prevent the possibility of corruption. Pay a rookie cop high enough that the marginal dollars he would receive on the take is not worth the probability of IA on his ass and a prison sentence. As an officer rises up the ranks, he moves further from the action (opposite of firemen). Keep a young cop clean for as long as possible with the knowledge that he'll get nice pay and benefits being good.

Problem with the drug trade now is that it is everywhere. We need clean cops everywhere, not just big cities. Being incredibly harsh with criminals could deter crime as happens in Asia, but there is no way the progressves will allow that. Too many of their voters would shriek. The left still whines about Reagan's reform so that criminals have to serve at least 75% of their federal sentence. Reforming the war on drugs could make changes, but has either party made a move to do so when in power? We have had presidents who smoked weed and did coke, yet not a word from Clinton, W or Obama on changing our drug laws or even just rescheduling marijuana. Municipalities will run into problems if they have to cutback on cop benefits while continuing our failed drug policies. We may have to cut spending elsewhere on those nice social programs that do good. Many cities have a lot of plates spinning, while they all have that rotting section that the police constantly keeps in order, and if the cheap credit goes, they will be forced to make tough decisions, maybe a plate falls and breaks.

People talk about paying the police enough in third world countries to prevent corruption like it cannot apply to the USA. It does. We're just quiet about causes for our well paid cops. Like all policy ideas in our cheap credit era, this has gone too far. Borrowing at low rates, cities could layer benefits and pay on police union members whether a corruption risk or not, and as a way to buy votes. Union negotiators could use collective bargaining agreement victories from one city to the next, creating a feedback loop. Small towns and counties got in on the act, and it has become a shame across our nation. Mass state troopers receiving triple pay to be security when a manhole cover gets replaced? Please. Police secretaries do not need to retire at 55 with a $100K a year pension, neither do police chiefs. None of them need the cadillac health plans that they receive on the taxpayer dime. They don't need it, but it just might be that we need them to receive those benefits to prevent widespread corruption. We don't have the will to deal with our social decay or the strength to combat our decadence that is the root of many of our problems. We'd rather pay cops just a bit more each year to make sure they keep our streets safe for us (stop laughing) instead of working with the area outfit and keeping the streets safe for them.

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