Article Image Alt Text

DayeTime: 'Blue bashing' won't solve problems

First, I must note that I am not one of those who puts police officers and firefighters on pedestals almost like idols.

I appreciate the job they do and do not envy them the awesome responsibility they carry. However, everyone has a job to do and every job has its own share of awesome responsibilities.

I also don’t have a lot of sympathy for those who seem to take great joy in bad-mouthing our boys and girls in blue. I call them “blue bashers.”

Some recent comments at the Marksville City Council meeting prompted me to do some research and here are the results.

There were harsh accusations against the local constabulary -- that officers don’t patrol certain neighborhoods, don’t respond to calls in high-crime communities, etc.

It was said that drug deals go down in open sight -- in broad daylight and in the wee hours of the morning.

When it was pointed out that Marksville has only three patrol officers per shift to cover the entire city -- about 26 road miles, according to Mayor John Lemoine -- that started another chain of commentary.

City officials were accused of not valuing their citizens’ safety enough to hire more police officers.

There was real concern that the department was severely understaffed. I can see why someone would think that. Three is a very small number.

While there can be no argument that more police per shift would be better, the fact is the Marksville cop-to-citizen ratio is better than the national average.

There are many different estimated population figures. An official count won’t occur until after the 2020 Census is taken and compiled.

The number of certified full-time police officers is easier to determine -- just call the police chief.

Chief Elster Smith said there are 18 certified police officers. That includes patrol officers and detectives. There are six dispatchers.

For this exercise, I picked 6,000 as the city’s population. There are estimates from 5,500 to 6,500 out there. There was one site claiming over 7,000 people in the city, but I suspect that includes unincorporated areas outside of Marksville.

So there are 18 police officers serving 6,000 people. That is a ratio of approximately three certified police officers for every 1,000 civilians.

Counting all police department personnel, there are four P.D. employees for every 1,000 citizens.

How does that compare to national averages?

The FBI data indicates approximately 68 percent of police department personnel are certified. Marksville has 75 percent.

The website I am basing this column on noted the median ratios for smaller cities is 1.61 per 1,000 for certified officers and 2.02 total police personnel per 1,000 residents. The average is 1.7 officers and 2.12 police personnel per 1,000 residents.

The website noted that some municipalities may have a significantly higher ratio than most others, which can raise the overall average ratio for small cities. That’s why that site says the median is a better gauge.

To show you even “experts” on this issue disagree, another website said the average was 2.4 cops per 1,000 and 3.4 PD personnel per 1,000. Even those numbers put Marksville above the national average ratio.

As you have probably surmised, the ratio numbers are based on the entire police force and not on the number of officers serving the public on each shift.

Being a product of the TV generation, I would expect each patrol car to have two officers. Every cop on TV has a partner. Car 54, Adam 12, etc., all had two-man patrol teams.

In the real world, I don’t think I’ve lived anywhere in the past 40-plus years that had two officers in the same car at the same time. Even Denver has gone to many single-officer patrols.

Admittedly and fortunately, I never had any run-ins with Denver P.D. when I lived there. Just google “Denver Police” and then bake your local police department a big batch of brownies.

The ratio site did note that large cities have more police to people and rural areas may have significantly lower ratios.

New York City has 4.5 cops per 1,000 people. Washington, D.C., has 6.5 per 1,000.

Maybe that’s where all those two-officer patrol teams can be found.

On the other end of the spectrum, some rural areas and small municipalities may be served with only a police chief and possibly a few part-time officers, the website noted. That could put the ratio below 1:1,000.

Perhaps when Marksville’s financial crisis passes, the city can look at increasing the number of patrols to four, five or six per shift.

Would that help to prevent crime in the city? Probably not.

As Mayor Lemone said at the council meeting, if the bad guys see a cop car “they will hit the bushes. When the police leave, they will come out and go back to doing what they were doing before.”

It comes down to the purpose of a police force. Is it to prevent crime or to gather evidence to prosecute criminals? Do police deter criminal behavior or detain those committing that criminal behavior?

Lemoine told the critic that the city cannot park a patrol car “24/7” in the neighborhood she was complaining about. Her response was “Why not?”

If the city could purchase and man 26 patrol cars and park one every mile of the 26 road miles in the city, and do that for the 14 12-hour shifts that officers work in a week, it would be a criminal free-for-all for every part of the city outside of eyesight of the parked patrol car.

Even if those 26 patrol cars were actively patrolling, it probably would not reduce crime significantly.

In response to a comment that “I never see a police car pass by my house,” Smith told the council, “Can you tell me what cars have passed by this building while we’ve been here?”

He said you won’t see a patrol car pass by unless you are outside or watching the road through the window. Just because the police car is not seen does not mean it did not make its pass through the neighborhood.

There is no doubt that “something has to be done” about crime in Marksville and other towns and rural communities in this parish.

Blaming the law enforcement officers for the crime is almost as bad as blaming the victims for the crime.

Neither accusation is accurate and does nothing to resolve the problem.

AVOYELLES JOURNAL
BUNKIE RECORD
MARKSVILLE WEEKLY

105 N Main St
Marksville, LA 71351
(318) 253-9247