The police department in Nampa, Idaho, a city of about 80,000 people with a crime rate well below the national average, was one of more than 400 to receive a Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) vehicle through the Pentagon’s 1033 program. Over the past two years, the Nampa PD also purchased a new fleet of Ford Taurus Police Interceptor patrol vehicles. However, in June Chief Craig Kingsbury went to the City Council to ask for funding to purchase a dozen additional SUV patrol vehicles because the Interceptors “aren’t popular with many of the department’s officers – they’re cramped and uncomfortable for long patrols,” reported the Idaho Press-Tribune.
In the hierarchy of public concerns, “officer comfort” apparently resides very close to the sacred imperative of “officer safety.” Rather than requiring his subordinates to adapt to their vehicles in order to serve their “customers” better, Kingsbury insists on getting another $441,000 in plundered funds to serve the creature comfort of Nampa’s costumed tax-feeders.
Question: If the need for new patrol vehicles is so acute, why doesn’t the Nampa PD sell off its spanking-new MRAP, which has a listed market value of about $500,000? Like hundreds of other departments, the Nampa PD got the MRAP not because of an actual need, but because the Pentagon was willing to give it to them at practically no expense. If we were to assume that the SUV patrol vehicles are a “necessity,” the MRAP should be regarded as a luxury and liquidated as such. That’s how a market-based enterprise would operate, in any case.
However, the only market for MRAPs consists of other police departments that can get them from the Pentagon at negligible expense. Even if the people running the Nampa PD were sufficiently rational and mature to sell off their dangerous new toy, they wouldn’t find a buyer. Unless austerity is somehow imposed on the Nampa PD, the city’s tax victims will eventually be forced to pay nearly the entire price of the “free” MRAP that was provided to the department – a vehicle that has no conceivable use other than providing “force protection” during SWAT raids of the kind that have become commonplace.
Predation, not protection
Like most other police agencies, the Nampa PD devours roughly half the municipal budget, and much of that expense is devoted to salaries. In 2010, seven of the ten highest-paid municipal positions in Nampa were filled by “public safety” officials, only one of whom – Fire Chief Karl Malott – was not a police officer. Coming in at number four on that list was Corporal (now Sergeant) Jason Cantrell, who received $104,173 in total compensation – nearly as much as then-Chief Bill Augsburger. Another corporal, Chadrick Shepard, finished at ninth place on the list with an annual haul of $93,559.
The median salary for a Nampa patrol officer is $50,214 – about $4,000 more than Idaho’s median household income, and roughly $14,000 more than the typical household income in the city supposedly “served” by that police department. A “parking and compliance officer” for the Nampa PD – that is, a state functionary who writes parking tickets – can expect a starting salary of $13.50 an hour. By way of contrast, an entry-level “security officer” employed by Secure Solutions to provide protection for private and commercial property in neighboring Boise is offered $10.00 an hour.
These disparities in compensation are not the product of natural market forces, because police and private security officers are not serving the same market: The later protect property, the former protect those who prey upon it. Even in the era of the all-encompassing Homeland Security State, privately employed security officers outnumber government-employed cops by at least three to one.
If government law enforcement agencies performed the advertised function of “protecting and serving” property rights, it wouldn’t be necessary for property owners to pay for their own security services. It has been known for decades – specifically, since the Police Foundation’s year-long study of the impact of “preventive patrols” on crime rates in the early 1970s — that government law enforcement patrols do nothing to reduce or deter property crimes, such as “burglaries, auto thefts, larcenies … robberies, or vandalism.” Private security services, such as Detroit’s Threat Management Center, provide much better protection – as do armed citizens, as Detroit’s Police Chief James Craig has admitted.
Once again, this isn’t surprising: Government-employed police have no enforceable duty to protect persons and property, even those to whom they have made explicit promises of individual protection. In fact, citizens are expected to protect the police – and some have found themselves being sued by officers who accused them of failing to provide that protection.
New York City was the first jurisdiction to adopt Peel’s model of paramilitary policing. Three years ago, NYPD officer Terrance Howell, who had been sent to find a deranged slasher-killer named Maxim Gelman, who had murdered three people, watched from the operator’s booth of a subway car while a martial arts expert named Joseph Lozito tackled and subdued the suspect. As Gelman slashed at the back of Lozito’s head, the desperate, bleeding man pleaded for help from Officer Howell, who did nothing to intervene. It was not until after Lozito had pinned Gelman to the floor and disarmed him that Howell emerged from his secure location and told Lozito, “You can get up now.”
Howell, the “hero cop” who was photographed triumphantly escorting Gelman in handcuffs, admitted to a member of a grand jury that he had hid from the suspect out of fear for his safety. After Lozito filed a tort claim for negligence, city attorney David Santoro explained that “Under well-established law, the police are not liable for such incidents” because police have “no special duty” to protect any individual citizen — even one who is literally bleeding to death a few feet away as he heroically subdues a psychotic murderer.
“Next time you hear people call cops trigger-happy or complain about their overtime and pensions, think of Police Officer Terrance Howell,” pontificated the New York Daily News in a reflexive paean to the police after Gelman’s arrest.
Ironically, that is a very good suggestion. Here is a better one: Next time you are told that police protect the public, remember Joseph Lozito.
Where protection of property is concerned, police are much worse than useless. Their job is to enforce the will of the predatory class that employs them, which is why we would be safer without them.