Does Los Angeles Still Need 10,000 Police Officers? Candidates Say Yes


The candidates vying to replace Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in the May 21 election – City Controller Wendy Greuel and Councilman Eric Garcetti – have embraced the mayor’s achievement of raising police officer ranks to 10,000, crediting the buildup in large measure for the city’s lowest crime rates since the 1950s, says the Los Angeles Times. Greuel has committed to enlarging the police force an additional 20 percent if the city treasury grows. Increasingly, others wonder whether rising police costs – up 36 percent to more than $2 billion over eight year — have come at too great a cost to paramedic response times, paving streets and other basic services. There is little consensus among academics about the effect that changes in police staffing have on crime rates. Where officers are deployed and the assignments they are given appear to be as important as the number of cops on the payroll, said Jeremy Wilson, a Michigan State University criminologist. A report on police staffing levels he coauthored suggested that many departments simply guess the number of officers needed. Many who have studied big-city crime decreases credit longer prison sentences and the retreat of the crack-cocaine epidemic, among other reasons, as being most responsible for bringing down crime. They point to cities like Seattle and Dallas that cut police in the 1990s and still saw crime drop sharply.

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