During the city council’s mid-year budget review on February 27, District 3 Councilman Jose F. Moreno expressed his feeling that continuation of current police spending levels will turn Anaheim “into a police state.”
“If we keep investing just in police and fire – really, police – we’re really creating a police state, and I don’t wanna do that. I don’t want to create a police state city.”
Why would Moreno even use such an inflammatory term? It suggests both paranoia and ignorance of the nature of a police state.
Anaheim has 399 sworn police officers, is budgeted for 408 and is expecting five retirements in the near future. Given Anaheim’s population of 358,000, that’s approximately one police officer for every 1,000 residents. Even with every budgeted position filled, that is hardly a police state.
The world has more than its share of real-life police states.
Those are police states.
Anaheim with 408 police officers, governed by free and fair elections? Hardly a police state.
Redefining Public Safety
During the same monologue, Moreno laid out a different definition of “public safety”
“It seems two out of three dollars goes to public safety and we envision public safety as being police and fire, and I’d like for us to think of a different paradigm of public safety which is more holistic. I’m concerned that more than half of our budget goes to our police department – which is very well deserved and needed – and we keep feeding the public’s imagination that we only get safety by having police officers and badges – and we really get safety by investments in neighborhoods, youth development programs, family development programs, and programming initiatives that really keep our city moving…”
Moreno’s concern about the portion of the budget devoted to police and fire, but that is largely a function of the growing pension burden – a problem that isn’t confined to public safety personnel. Moreno’s credibility on this is strained given his silence on the pension issue and his desire to end contracting out and increase the city’s payroll.
His suggestion of creating a new “paradigm” for public safety by including community services programs under that definition is problematic. His claim that the public believes safety is purely a function of more police is a red herring. The types of programs he cites can help on the margins of public safety, but should not be viewed as public safety programs. That would be politically helpful for progressive politicians by allowing them to posture as supporting more “resources for public safety” while opposing actual public safety policies like hiring more police officers.
This is not to say crime can only be addressed via law enforcement, but reducing and fatherlessness in families and out-of-wedlock births would yield a greater impact in terms of reducing juvenile delinquency and crime. But effective action in these areas lies more in the moral realm of churches and civic groups, and doesn’t necessarily lend itself to city programming. Mayor Tait’s emphasis on fostering “neighborhood resiliency” is an exception to the extent it encourages neighbors to better know each other and look out for each other. Policing, however, is a fundamental municipal function, and the means by which cities can have their biggest impact on public safety. Redefining public safety along the lines suggested by Moreno creates confusion and blurs accountability.
It’s also a timeless expression of progressive intellectual hubris. Liberal thinkers and policy-makers in the early 1960s were utterly confident the anti-poverty programs of the Great Society would eradicate poverty, dramatically reducing crime and juvenile delinquency along with it. Instead, the heretofore decline in poverty was arrested, while crime and delinquency grew dramatically. Historians and social scientists can wrangle over the relative mix of causation or correlation, but its clearly the positive results confidently predicted by the progressive thinkers of that era never materialized. There’s no reason to think the policy insights of their latter-day intellectual heirs are any better.