Posted St. Louis American – Thursday, May 5, 2016 8:45 am
As part of its ongoing work around local control of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, the Coalition Against Police Crimes and Repression (CAPCR) has been facilitating community forums to discuss re-thinking public safety. A component of the town hall is a presentation that highlights two remarkable findings.
One fact is that St. Louis is spending 56 percent of its general budget on arresting and incarcerating folks. A whopping $277,840,566 is spent on courts, jails and law enforcement departments, i.e. police, sheriff, etc. That’s a lot of dough for a city that consistently holds national titles like “Most Dangerous City” and “Most Violent Crimes” for at least the last decade.
In a nation hell-bent on criminalizing its citizens, especially its black and brown ones, the rate of mass incarceration speaks volumes to the fact that the crime strategy used by law enforcement is not working. Over two million citizens are housed in the U.S. prison system, more than any other civilized country in the world. This is a system that is not only inhumane but economically unsustainable. Yet, there’s no course change by our elected officials.
The second striking finding in CAPCR’s research related to the unsuccessful crime strategy is the number of police officers on the St. Louis police force.
In 2015, there were 1250 police officers employed by the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. Said in another way, St. Louis is 7th in the country with the highest number of police per capita – nearly one cop for every 40 citizens.
To put this into perspective, Detroit has a population twice that of St. Louis and has a police force of about 2500. Detroit’s citizen to police ratio is 36.3 to 1. St. Louis police officials won’t admit to its dismal crime-fighting record. They insists that 160 more police officers is the answer.
CAPCR’s town halls are asking citizens to re-envision what public safety could like. What citizens are realizing is that some of the millions being spent on controlling, criminalizing and containing human beings should be re-allocated to meeting basic human needs. We could be doing so much more spending our money to improve people’s lives with job opportunities, housing, education and other programs that have been shown to prevent crime from happening in the first place.
There will be more town halls, more discussions about the people’s budget and more challenges of the way our hard-earned tax dollars are being spent. A new crime-fighting paradigm is coming to town.