Despite Big Budgets, Police Are Catching Very Few Real Criminals
In Tuesday’s debate, former vice president Joe Biden declared he was opposed to the “defund the police” movement. In a general election, this is not a terribly bold statement on Biden’s part. According to numerous polls, the public has little enthusiasm for sizable cuts to police agencies.
Most people, it seems, recognize that some sort of security or law enforcement agency plays a valuable role in most communities.
This doesn’t mean, of course, that this crime-fighting agency need necessarily be a monopolistic organization, or a government agency. Unfortunately, however, it is nowadays generally accepted as a given that law enforcement is a job for a government bureaucracy funded by taxes and with no legal competitors.
But whatever one may think are the advantages of a government-controlled police agency, we always encounter a big problem with government monopolies: they offer lower-quality services at a higher price than would be the case with private firms.
It should not be shocking, then, that in a new and lengthy article forthcoming from the Alabama Law Review, the author found that police agencies have a very poor record in solving crimes and bringing criminals to justice.
A Lack of Police Effectiveness and Accountability
It is remarkably difficult to find data on how skilled and effective police are at finding and arresting guilty parties, and how often these arrests lead to a conviction.
All too often, researchers and journalists end up relying on “clearance rates,” which are the rate at which police make arrests for reported crimes and turn arrested suspects over to prosecutors. In some cases, the police may be said to have “cleared” a case when a suspect dies before he can be arrested or if the police have determined the case has been resolved in some other way. Police agencies themselves often publish this information, and these numbers can be easily manipulated, because the police determine if a case has been resolved based on their own judgment about a suspect whose guilt has never been proven.
Thus, more adroit readers will immediately begin to see some of the problems with using clearance rates as a measure of police effectiveness. Just because the police make an arrest doesn’t mean they’ve caught the guilty party. Just because police make an arrest doesn’t mean the police have collected enough evidence to lead to a verdict of guilt.
Moreover, clearance rates rarely attempt to take into account crimes that occur but are never reported to police. (These numbers are certainly not negligible.)
Yet even when using this clearance data published by the police themselves, we’re left with a picture of police mediocrity where fewer than half of violent crimes lead to any sort of satisfactory resolution.
But new research from University of Utah legal scholar Shima Baradaran Baughman suggests that even these traditional clearance rate–based numbers of police “success” are actually much too high. If we measure police effectiveness considering “the overwhelming number of crimes not reported to police, individuals who are apprehended but not turned over to prosecutors, [and] crimes resolved without arrest through alternative means,” the numbers look very different. Taking factors
Article from Mises Wire