Fewer Cops, More Crime: Police Staffing & The Crisis Of Public Safety

While gun control activists insist that the rise in violent crime seen in cities from Portland to Philadelphia must be related to the huge increase in gun sales last year, the data just doesn’t support those claims. We do, however, have some evidence that when there are more officers on the street, there’s less criminal activity, and my guest on today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co backs that up.

Attorney James L. Buchal, who works with the National Police Association, says that officer staffing levels were already starting to become a concern before the “Defund the Police” movement exploded last year, but when Democratic officials started tripping over themselves in a mad rush to hack away at police budgets and declare themselves ready to replace officers with social workers, the problem got exponentially worse.

For instance, Philadelphia should have about 6,400 officers on the job, but as of October the number was closer to 5,100. In Chicago, there are about 1,600 unfilled positions. Portland? Down more than 100 officers in a department much smaller than either Philly or Chicago.

Even more rural areas that aren’t exactly hotbeds of anti-police sentiment are struggling to fill positions. Buchal detailed one case out of Pierce County, Washington involving a sheriff’s deputy who was shot and killed after responding to a home invasion in 2019. As Buchal explains, at the time Deputy Daniel McCartney took the call about the home invasion, he was one of just two sheriffs deputies on duty and responsible for patrolling 700 square miles.

McCartney’s family actually sued the county over McCartney’s death, arguing that the county had a duty to ensure that there were adequate staffing levels in place for deputies, and that McCartney might be alive today if there’d been another deputy or a supervisor who could have backed him up. Earlier this year, however, a state judge in Washington ruled against the family and siding with the county, which declared in essence that McCartney knew the risks of the job when he was hired.

McCartney was the first person to respond to a 911 call reporting a home invasion on January 7, 2018.

Investigators said the intruders held three adults and two young children hostage with handguns and “bowie” style knives and demanded money. One of the hostages was able to escape and call 911.

After arriving at the home, McCartney reported he was pursuing the suspects and then called out “shots fired.”

In Aug. 2018, Frank Pawul was sentenced to life in prison without parole for McCartney’s death.

McCartney’s family is appealing the decision, and while they might face an uphill fight with their legal battle, the case does raise an interesting point.

We’ve seen plenty of cases where a court (looking at you, Ninth Circuit) has upheld a gun control law that judges admit infringes on the right to keep and bear arms. But that infringement is okay, supposedly, because the State has a compelling interest in public safety.

Now, I agree that the state does have an interest in public safety (though I disagree that the interest allows for the infringement of an individual right); I just find it odd that the compelling interest can justify restrictions on the Second Amendment rights of residents, yet can’t justify mandating political subdivisions adequately fund and/or staff their own their public safety departments.

One problem is that state and local governments can’t print money out of thin air like the federal government can, nor can they run up trillions of dollars in debt and deficit spending. But while budget considerations may play a role in understaffed agencies (particularly in rural areas or jurisdictions with dwindling tax bases), what we’re seeing in a lot of cities is that even if the money to hire officers is there, it’s the interest that’s missing. Case in point: Rochester, New York, which is one of many cities that will end this year with a record number of homicides.

Staffing shortages at local police departments are causing concerns, as violent crime increases across Monroe County.

The past year, the Rochester Police Department has struggled to hire enough officers. The Locust Club says in 2020 the city hired 16 recruits but had 41 retirements.

“In 2021, we’ve hired nobody as the police department, and we have had 24 retirements or transfers. So just since January of 2020, we’ve had 65 members leave the department for other jobs or retirements and we’ve only hired 16,” said Adam DeVincentis, the Vice President of the Rochester Police Locust Club.

That report was back in June, but things haven’t gotten any better in the months since.

A severe staffing shortage within the ranks of Rochester police has “put everyone in this city in a dangerous place,” according to the president of the city’s police union.

The Police Department is operating with 100 fewer patrol officers than are budgeted or authorized, officials said. Meanwhile, the city is seeing an above-average year in homicides and shootings.

“Wake up before the city is completely burned to the ground,” Mazzeo wrote City Council members this week in an fiery email exchange obtained by the Democrat and Chronicle.

Rochester isn’t just seeing an “above average” year when it comes to homicides. It’s an all-time high.

New York’s SAFE Act hasn’t made Rochester any safer. Its “may issue” concealed carry laws aren’t stopping criminals from carrying and using guns in the commission of armed robberies, home invasions, carjackings, and drive-by shootings.

Putting 100 more officers in uniform or able to respond and investigate these violent crimes (along with prosecutors willing to throw the book at violent offenders instead of sending them back onto the streets with a hug and a wave) would have a much bigger impact on improving public safety than adding 1,000 new restrictions on legal gun owners. And if you really want to give the public a fighting chance against violent actors, decriminalize the right to bear arms and swell the ranks of armed citizens.