Police Union Endorses Zack Reed, But More Officers Won't Solve Cleveland's Crime Problems

[image-1]Yesterday, the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association, the union representing rank-and-file officers, endorsed City Councilman Zack Reed in the upcoming mayoral election.

"Councilman Reed has been consistent in his concern for rising violent crime rates and the need to improve police staffing levels in Cleveland," wrote Union President Steve Loomis, in a statement, "while the current administration has neither acknowledged nor addressed these issues.

"For instance the Division of Police is currently 163 active police officers and 28 dispatchers below BUDGETED staffing levels with no relief in sight. This type of leadership exposes officers and law-abiding citizens to unnecessary risk and has a dramatic impact on everyone's quality of life."

The CPPA endorsed Frank Jackson's opponent in the 2013 mayoral election as well. (If you've forgotten who that was, no matter. But his name was Ken Lanci.)

Both Reed and Jackson have called for an increase in police officers on the force. Reed has suggested that 400 new officers will do the trick. Jackson has called that number unfeasible — and Cleveland.com has too — though Jackson himself has suggested adding 300 officers between 2018 and 2020.

But will increasing the number of police officers really solve the problem of rising violent crime? Will it even help?

In data analysis published yesterday by a local independent researcher and Twitter celeb, the answer is no.

Tim Kovach found that Cleveland's current number of officers (1,444) isn't even all that low. Compared to the 429 other U.S. cities that the FBI analyzed in 2016, Cleveland ranked 9th for number of officers per 10,000 residents (37.4). Phoenix, for example, has about 17 officers per 10,000 residents. San Antonio has roughly 14. San Jose has only nine.

And though Cleveland's police force has indeed shrunk, so too has the total population, so the number of officers per 10,000 residents hasn't deviated significantly since 1995. 

Kovach ran correlations on a number of different variables, both in Cleveland and in the United States, and found that adding more police officers does not correlate to reduced crime. He also suggested that Cleveland needs to move beyond "easy answers" when tackling questions of crime and policing, particularly in communities of color.

"Ultimately, the weight of the evidence suggests that hiring hundreds of more police officers will do nothing to alleviate Cleveland’s crime woes; on the contrary, it could even exacerbate them," he concludes. "None of this should be taken to say that police don’t play an important and personally dangerous role in securing our communities. Police officers are a necessary but, clearly, insufficient tool in a much broader toolkit to combat crime.

"Obviously much of the impetus for deploying more police is coming from residents themselves, including those in communities of color struggling with rising crime rates. But we should expect our elected officials to make decisions that are in the best interest of their constituents and are based on evidence, not fear mongering."

Read Kovach's full post here.

About The Author

Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
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