Ever wondered when a decline in crime rates that is now well into its second decade will produce the law enforcement version of the post-Cold War "peace dividend?"
"Never" seems to be the answer from the Sacramento, CA sheriff's deputies union. The murder rate in cash-strapped Sacto is the lowest it's been in nearly 40 years, yet when county supervisors considered slowing the growth of public safety budgets, the Sacramento County Deputy Sheriffs' Association hit back with a hilariously over the top ad featuring a girl in what looks like a Girl Scouts cap being menaced by a brawny male hand. (On the hand, she could be wearing a Kangol hat, in which case she probably brought this on herself.)
Per USA Today:
Another [ad] shows a masked man breaking through a door and asks, "Do you feel safe?"
"We felt it was necessary to grab people's attention," says Kevin Mickelson, president of the Sacramento County Deputy Sheriffs' Association. He says 122 deputies were laid off last year and more cuts would make it "impossible to do our job."
Chairman Roger Dickinson of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, says the county's $180 million budget gap means "literally no operation … is going to be spared reductions." Although reducing the number of deputies might slow response times, violent crime is down, he says.
The campaign appears to have worked. While the Golden State capital has been going through serious contortions to close its budget gap, most of the proposed reductions for public safety budgets ended up getting nixed through the use of funny money. From the Sacramento Bee:
The cuts could have been much worse, but the board decided to use financial reserves, money transfers and one-time funds to offset the shortfall. The last-minute maneuvering dropped the deficit from $122 million at the start of the week to just under $100 million by the time the supervisors voted Thursday afternoon.
The restorations went almost entirely to public safety agencies, which got $22.5 million of the $23.1 million the board opted to use in reserves and one-time funds. The board funneled $17.9 million of that to the Sheriff's Department.
Even so, the Sheriff's Department's budget will be $20 million less than what Sheriff John McGinness had said would be necessary to avoid cuts. Nevertheless, McGinness said Thursday he is optimistic that he won't have to lay off many deputies; he said he's hoping to garner more than $20 million in federal stimulus funds and that the deputies union will agree to additional contract concessions.
In a sense, this is giving the people what they want. Policing is one public expenditure for which there is always broad support. Yet even the county's candidates for sheriff agree that costs for maintaining the deputies' lifestyle—and particularly the gaping maw of pension payments—have to be reduced. And, officially at any rate, scaring the bejeezus out of people is not part of the job description for California peace officers…yet.
Thanks to Mish Shedlock.