My home town has become big on crime prevention. However, in the last two years, violent crime has risen, significantly. Obviously, we aren’t very good at it. I know there are problems with the Columbia Police Department, but it wasn’t until recently that I figured out exactly what they were.
For starters, the CPD requires 60 college credit hours or 30 college credit hours and experience (military or law enforcement). Starting pay is $19.92/hour. The Boone County Sheriff’s Department requires a high school diploma. Starting pay is $19.95/hour.
I’m not going to argue that a less educated police officer is better, it isn’t. I want my men & women in blue to have a clue. However, it doesn’t make sense to pay the city officers less. I realize there is a structure involved for paying higher starting wages for those with education (I used to work for the city), I also know this isn’t utilized very often (remember that job I just mentioned?).
Our low starting wage isn’t that appealing… anyone looking to become a police officer in Central Missouri can hop right over to the Sheriff’s Department and get a job that pays better and while being a deputy to take classes in criminal justice, that the sheriff’s department helps pay for. Seriously, the city isn’t even in the competition.
And we’ve cut their funding… Sure, we got them a new SWAT-style vehicle that was worth a lot of money and we’ve bought some new cars and body cameras and I’m all for giving them the tools to do their jobs… but the city hasn’t been handing out raises in a while and that means all those highly trained officers with college credits and experience are looking for better jobs.
We don’t really have the officers to respond to crimes in progress, let alone crime prevention. And because we are so busy chasing our tails, attempting to capture bad guys after the fact, the department is losing even more money (another round of budget cuts in the future), because they aren’t issuing the fines for traffic violations like they should be… because we don’t have the officers to do it… because we don’t pay our officers a competitive wage for the minimum requirements. Being a police officer might be a calling, but people still like to be financially compensated for it (I would write, but not publish if my books weren’t selling… and find a different job… So would any author).
This problem is recent. I remember growing up in a town that was filled with police officers. Crime prevention wasn’t a goal to achieve, it just happened because we had enough officers to handle the needs of the city. So, I’m not sure where to put the blame or point the finger… I just know that we cannot have effective crime prevention programs without enough police officers to fulfill all the roles and we do not have the police officers.