So I did a little bit of “exploratory ethnography” here in my new home of Worcester, MA by going to a Public Safety Commission Meeting. There’s plenty that could be said about it, even though it lasted all of ten minutes (has anybody else gone to these kinds of meetings? Have you noticed how existentially absurd they are? They don’t really do anything like that in France), but one thing in particular stuck out… It seems that the City of Worcester will need to lay off 24 officers by the end of September due to the city’s $1,300,000 (i like to leave in zeros) deficit. this is on top of the fact that they apparently graduated 32 new recruits in February and promptly proceeded to lay them off at the end of the month.
To me, that sounds like a lot. To put that in context, according to the WPD’s 2008 Annual report they had 381 budgeted police personnel, which amounted to $38,969,002 in Salary, Overtime and Holiday/Extras. So these cuts would mean anywhere from about a 6% (just subtracting the 24 officers from last year’s corps) to a 17% (adding together the 24, plus the 32 recruits, plus the 9 scheduled retirees) cut in the workforce and the $1.2 million would be about 3% of the money budgeted for salary. Now, that doesn’t sound like that much, but I have no idea to be honest. I really have only a general sense of what these kinds of cuts will mean–if they mean anything new at all.
Which got me wondering: does anyone know of any good work and/or reporting being done on the effects of the financial crisis on the practices of policing in American (or other) cities? If not, shouldn’t we be a part of that? What kinds of questions can we fruitfully ask about the situation?
Here’s the outline of one: if nothing else, what we’ve learned from the literature on neoliberalism is that it doesn’t make much sense to call it a “retreat of the state”–everyone from Loic Wacquant to Nikolas Rose & co. to the Cheney/Bush homeland security apparatus has shown us that. Even though that’s very much how the present crisis is being framed (“lack of government funds” etc.), the same truth still seems to hold–wither the stimulus money, for example?
How else to make sense of “financial crisis'” affect on municipal policing?
Wacquant, L. (2008). The Body, the Ghetto and the Penal State Qualitative Sociology, 32 (1), 101-129 DOI: 10.1007/s11133-008-9112-2
Wacquant, L. (2001). The Penalisation of Poverty and the rise of Neo-Liberalism European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research, 9 (4), 401-412 DOI: 10.1023/A:1013147404519
Rose, N., O’Malley, P., & Valverde, M. (2006). Governmentality Annual Review of Law and Social Science, 2 (1), 83-104 DOI: 10.1146/annurev.lawsocsci.2.081805.105900