Friday, September 02, 2011

The Model Police Force
As the specter of diminishing revenue spreads it's shadow over Cincinnati's safety departments we need to look at matters objectively and see how we got here in the first place.

In this chart you can see how police staffing has changed over the years in comparison to the city's population (measured in hundreds). While the population crested around 1950, the police force has only continued to grow with a few hiccups along the way. (Officers were laid off in 1977 due to a tax levy failure only to be hired back in 1979.) Through most of the city's history police levels were around 1 per 600 residents. That trend changed about the time the population began to decline giving us a ratio of more than 1 officer per 300 residents. Many people want even more police (but haven't proposed new taxes to pay for them).
So what's happened since the middle of the 20th century?

Actual calls for service have actually been in decline.
One change has been the rise of the automobile. Around 1940-50, car ownership per household moved over the 50% mark. Besides creating a whole new class of criminal, the auto has created a whole new set of safety issues previously unknown to man. The modern automobile with it's luxurious confines also puts passengers in a steel and glass bubble that isolates them from the communities they are in (when they are not on isolated special roadways). Add to that, the sensationalistic, distorted, fear mongering pumped through car radios to their isolated audiences and you can see some serious attitudinal adjusting.

Television came onto the scene around that time, too. People could get entertainment at home that they had previously had to go to public places to enjoy. Couple this new bit of isolation with TV news that has increasingly been geared towards entertainment & sensationalism and perception of reality just gets more distorted and fantastic.
Then, of course, there's the decline in population itself. One looks around and doesn't see the familiar faces. The familiar businesses close down. Landmarks are demolished. Cincinnati has also seen it's neighborhoods split and blighted by highways further alienating remaining residents from their environment.
There's also the "bulge" of baby boomers who re aging & dying. Where once a powerful bloc in society, their influence is beginning to wane. An aging white population is slowly being replaced with a younger black population exacerbating the "generation gap" with a "culture gap" as well.
Could it be that the "need" for so many police is really just a reaction to fear borne of isolation, insecurity, alienation and a world view distorted by a sensationalistic fear mongering media?

A lot of the info here was found at The Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society Museum site.

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