Friday, May 17, 2024

Police don't fight crime

What are police for? "Fighting crime" is the obvious answer. If there's a burglary, they should show up and investigate. Ditto if there's a murder or sexual assault. Speeding or drunk or dangerous driving is a crime, so obviously they should respond to that. And obviously, they should respond to violent crimes in progress. But statistical data from the US shows that that is not what they actually do. Instead, they spend most of their time pointlessly harassing innocent people:

A new report adds to a growing line of research showing that police departments don’t solve serious or violent crimes with any regularity, and in fact, spend very little time on crime control, in contrast to popular narratives.


More notably, researchers analyzed the data to show how officers spend their time, and the patterns that emerge tell a striking story about how policing actually works. Those results, too, comport with existing research showing that U.S. police spend much of their time conducting racially biased stops and searches of minority drivers, often without reasonable suspicion, rather than “fighting crime.”

Overall, sheriff patrol officers spend significantly more time on officer-initiated stops – “proactive policing” in law enforcement parlance – than they do responding to community members’ calls for help, according to the report. Research has shown that the practice is a fundamentally ineffective public safety strategy, the report pointed out.

An officer-initiated stop could be pulling over a speeding or suspected drunk driver, but when three quarters of such stops result in no action or a warning, it looks unlikely. The report calls it “a routine practice of pretextual stops” - basically, harassing the innocent. And most of police department budgets are spent on this, a colossal waste of public money.

It would be interesting to see a similar data from Aotearoa, to see if the gang in blue are as useless as their American counterparts. And with the amount of money we spend on policing - $2.6 billion last year - you'd think it might be a priority to see if we're getting value for that colossal amount of money.