In Our View: Consider Vancouver policing budget increase

The Columbian Published: July 6, 2024, 6:03am

The numbers suggest that the city of Vancouver can benefit from increasing the size of its police force. According to officials, the department has 229 sworn officers (its budget calls for 244). That works out to 1.16 officers per 1,000 residents; according to 2022 FBI data, the national per-capita rate was 2.33 officers. Meanwhile, Washington has a per-capita rate of 1.31 law enforcement officers for every 1,000 residents, the lowest in the nation. Given those facts, Vancouver is preparing to renew debates over policing, crime and public safety. City Manager Eric Holmes has presented recommendations from a Police Community Advisory Committee that was convened in January. “We’re reaching the limit of the capacity of Vancouver police to consistently, reliably and effectively deliver basic police services,” Holmes told the city council. “We have very clear, measurable gaps in current services by VPD that can only be provided by commissioned officers.”

Detailing the shortcomings is relatively easy; solving them is more complex. The advisory committee recommends asking voters to approve an increase to property taxes, an idea that could be placed on the ballot as soon as November. It also recommends asking for a bond levy of between $70 million and $100 million in 2026, and a public safety sales tax in 2028. Whether voters embrace tax increases and a multifaceted plan remains to be seen. None of this represents a quick fix; once a position is approved, it takes 12 to 18 months for an officer to be hired and fully trained. The report says, “Given this reality, the community — even if supportive of the initial levy in 2024 — is unlikely to see a measurable change in service level until mid-2026.” But along with any effort to increase the number of officers comes questions about how to improve policing. City Councilor Ty Stober said: “I want to acknowledge a tremendous amount of anxiety that’s in the community, anxiety about feelings of safety. But I do want to point out that anxiety is not monolithic; it is multifaceted. Different members of our community have different forms of anxiety right now in terms of policing.”

That anxiety was manifested in protests during the summer of 2020. Following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis officers, the United States faced a reckoning about the use of force by officers and about racial bias in how force is applied. In some cases, that led to calls by progressives to “defund the police.” The idea was to reduce police budgets and redirect funding toward social programs and nonviolent intervention programs. Few cities trimmed police budgets, but the phrase has supported false claims that Democrats want to abolish police. As the centrist Brookings Institution explained, “The truth: the movement seeks to demilitarize police departments and reallocate funding to trained mental health workers and social workers to reduce unnecessary violent encounters between police and citizens.” Policy debates about “defund the police” have quieted since 2020, but they must be part of the underlying discussion regarding police budgets. So should legislative work to define the limits of police authority. In addition, efforts to address a lack of qualified candidates for law-enforcement positions must continue. Increasing the budget will be ineffective if openings cannot be filled. All of that contributes to the complexity of improving policing in Vancouver. But a suggestion to increase the budget is an important first step that warrants serious consideration.

We have provided this article, free from trackers, paywalls, or other monetization. It is entirely provided as a service for the convenience of the community of Vancouver, Washington. We encourage you to read the article in its original format at the following url, which is the website of the original publisher.

We are in no way affiliated with The Columbian and are not responsible for the content which they have published. To have this article removed from our website, please contact our Cease and Desist Department.

This article originated from The Columbian on 2024-07-07 00:06:01.
Visit their website and subscribe today!