Yesterday AP asked how exactly we plan to combat crime. So, when I received a press release from the mayor's office entitled "Mayor Ellen Moyer proposes a five point plan to address concerns being raised about public safety in the City of Annapolis", I was jubilant. After all, I was confident that the mayor could not oppose the political winds that are demanding the fulfillment of the vacant police positions.
But then I read on.
Here is a summary of the mayor's 5 point plan:
1. REDUCE the number of shifts at the police department from five to three. Idea being: more officers per shift = higher visibility.
2. Buy 4 Segways.
3. Get a horse. (I can't make this stuff up, this is what it says.)
4. Make entire city a drug free zone, get money from other jurisdictions to implement major drug treatment and prevention program.
5. Turn lights on at night.
This is amazing. I barely know where to begin. First of all, the mayor refuses to commit to filling the vacancies on the police department!!!!! She declares:
Our principal obligation is to find new ways to use the people that we have now to enhance public safety.
By reducing the number of shifts, she is actually trying to create the APPEARANCE of having more officers WITHOUT ACTUALLY GETTING MORE OFFICERS!!!!! If we still have the same number of officers, and they still work the same amount of hours per week, then this idea does absolutely nothing. Or, we can pay ridiculous overtime, and have all these officers work until they can't stand up. Unbelievable. In item #1 of the plan, the mayor spends the first sentence detailing what she wants to do, and the next 5 sentences defending what her policy has been so far. She says:
While much has been made recently of the numbers of police officers that are currently employed by the City, the fact is that the APD maintains a ratio of 3 police officers to every 1000 citizens-the national average is only 1 officer per thousand.
We have already been over this. These ratios are useless, especially for Annapolis because it is (1) a maritime city and (2) a capital city.
The mayor goes on to say that the war in Iraq and retirement have caused a nationwide talent shortage of interested police officers:
The war in Iraq and retirement have both greatly impacted the number of qualified people that are available for and interested in police work. Jurisdictions nationwide are drawing from the same talent pool and facing the same challenges.
We have been over this too! There are hundreds of people who want to be police officers in the city of Annapolis, but the city won't offer the entrance exam (until now)!
Now, for the famous "this is not my fault, I am doing everything right" quote from the mayor:
We offer a very competitive package of pay and benefits to our officers and are always looking for talented people. We will aggressively continue that search without lowering our standards.
Yesterday, I said "The prevailing political climate--which usually lags behind the will of the people (unless ignoring it completely)--is that the department needs to fill the 20+ vacancies. There is probably no amount of reluctance from the police chief, or anyone else, to stop this from happening." I was dead wrong, as long as the mayor has something to say about it.
As for the Segways, fine. If the police need the Segways, get them the resources they need. But what's wrong with bicycles?
As for the horse mounted unit, the mayor states that one horse-mounted unit is equivalent to 10 officers on foot. What? Really? I guess so. But by most accounts these units are best utilized in crowd control. And will only one horse mounted unit really make a difference? Will it be in the exact spot to deter a drug deal or stop an assault?
I don't know what the obsession is with a drug free zone; it seems to me like more of a formality than anything else. Shouldn't we be combatting drugs at all times? I think a treatment plan is a good resource, but we need to go after the dealers too. What, besides getting money from the state and county, are we going to do about this?
And for goodness sake, we will turn our lights on if it will make you happy.