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Home > Featured > A plan to defund (opinion)

A plan to defund (opinion)

By ThisIsReno
Reno Police launched an early morning cleanup of a homeless encampment in downtown Reno. Image: Isaac Hoops

Submitted by Edward Coleman

The Reno City Council has a $3 million increase for the Reno Police Department (RPD) as part of the upcoming budget.  This is in the face of a COVID-19 pandemic that threatens to blow holes in the City budget for at least the next two years.  It is not clear why the police need these additional funds when their budget alone consumes 34% of city revenue.

Based on a recent public policing forum to review the Guinn Report, the police have been unable to institute any of the minimal suggestions for transparency or data sharing the report indicated were necessary in over two years. They were given an employee evaluation and failed, yet the Reno City Council chose to give them a raise.

Crime in Reno

There are two primary categories of crime: property crime and violent crime.  The FBI defines property crime as, “the offenses of burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson. The object of the theft-type offenses is the taking of money or property, but there is no force or threat of force against the victims.”  The FBI defines violent crime as, “murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Violent crimes are defined as those offenses which involve force or threat of force.”

There is a perception the police are “catching the bad guys” but in Reno, that is not the case. According to the FBI, the violent crime rate has increased from 12% in 2005 to 21% in 2018. In 2018, nonviolent crime was 79% of the crime handled by police in Reno, based on reported data.  If the police budget were evenly divided, violent crime in 2018 was just under $14 million out of a $66 million budget. They are spending much of their resources handling nonviolent crimes.

Reno number of crimes

In Reno, the overall crime rate has fallen.  All things being equal, we were paying $8,502.60 for each crime committed in 2018.  This is for every reported minor property crime such as trespassing up to murder. The use of resources should be evaluated before increases are granted.

Defunding the Police: A Plan

We can defund the police in a systematic way and rebuild the department as one part of a system of community support.  My plan would enforce fiscal and administrative compliance, determine baselines for future comparison, and reduce the number of officers and the number of instances the police interact with the public. As the police budget and officer numbers shrink, recovered funds would be channeled into social programs, healthcare, mental health, housing, and, where possible, educational programs. This would not be immediate, and defunding would occur over multiple budget cycles.

Fiscal Responsibility

The RPD budget is out of proportion to the crime we have here.  A good first step to correcting this would be to audit the Reno Police Department for at least the past five years. This audit should focus on unauthorized spending, misallocated expenses, accounting errors, and fraud, waste and abuse.  Any misuse of public taxpayer funds would be used to reduce the upcoming RPD budget.

The following additional fiscal restrictions should apply immediately:

  • Use taxpayer funds only to pay for policing activities
  • Ban the use of taxpayer funds for public relations activities
  • Conduct an annual audit
  • Establish and apply a biannual rate of reduction for the budget
  • Limit any claw backs to be in addition to the biannual reduction rate.

Administrative Audits

There should be data on whether the RPD’s policies are effective and how they are benchmarking them to measure success, and those should be publicly reported on a monthly basis. Unclear policies should be clarified, and all policies related to officer conduct and interactions with the public should bear penalties which are consistently applied for the officer and the department. An annual review would allow policies to be adjusted as necessary to curb the behavior they are intended to curb and root out noncompliant officers. Efficiencies in processes could also be realized, which could improve the overall operations. This should occur in conjunction with the annual fiscal audit.

The following additional administrative actions should be applied:

  • A time study of officer activities should be conducted to see where time is being used
  • A quarterly public forum to review policy and policing should be held with the Chief of Police

Policy Implementation and Enforcement

A set of policies to promote public safety and trust, and reduce contacts with the public should also be implemented.  These policies should ban police officers from approaching certain classes of property crimes and all ticket-able non-vehicular related crimes while armed. Low-level ticketing offenses where there is no victim should no longer be pursued except in documented cases of continued noncompliance.

Duties police are not equipped to handle, such as most mental health issues, should be removed from their scope of duties. Internal investigations of police officers should be conducted by an outside independent entity. A strict background check should be implemented to root out and remove officers with racist and white supremacist connections/backgrounds.

Police Outlook

The focus of how police interact with the public should be changed. Metrics should be established to measure outcomes from police interactions. For example, if a homeless person encounters the police, was their life improved by that interaction? We must reward the behaviors we want to see and set and enforce strict penalties for those we do not. 

The following item should be considered:

  • Where possible, officers who conform with outcomes-based policing should be rewarded.

Supporting the Public Good

Police do not reduce crime; they only react to it.  Social factors such as unemployment are forces which drive crime and it’s been shown that connections to supportive institutions reduce crime. The funds recovered from audits and overall force reductions should be channeled into a combination of city operations and local non-profit organizations. The funds would go to supporting and establishing housing programs, mental health services, health services, increasing programs offered by the city for recreation/education, and other identified social services. 

Defunding the police can lead to better outcomes for Reno.  Crime in general is falling while violent crime, the form of crime the police should be reducing, is increasing. It is known that families which are supported thrive and become involved members of a community. When the factors which drive crime are attacked and reduced crime falls, and the police can better serve their role in this system by reducing the instances of violent crime in our town. 

Edward Coleman has lived in Reno, Nevada since 2012.  In that time, he has been a state employee working as the Quality Assurance Lead for the statewide National School Lunch Program providing fiscal and regulatory oversight to over $150 million in federal funds. He holds an MBA from Western Governors University and is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Business Administration with a focus on Finance at Northcentral University. Coleman is active in local politics, a fully trained tailor and designer, and a practitioner of Aikido.   

Submitted opinions do not represent the views of ThisisReno. Have something to say? Submit an opinion article here.

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10 comments

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Edward Coleman July 25, 2020 - 6:31 am

Mr. Asbell said, “I am curious, how does the Police Officer know whether or not it is a Mental Health issue prior to arriving and assessing the situation. Often, alcohol or violent related crimes are initiated by those with Mental Illness, do they bring a firearm?

My response: The police are dispatched and usually have information from the 911 (emergency line)/ dispatcher as to the nature of what they may be about to face. You are trying to link behavior/choice (alcohol use etc.) to mental illness and these two things are not the same.

Mr. Asbell said, “And traffic stops, what percentage of Fatal shootings of Police Officers is performed due to simple traffic stops, i.e. faulty safety equipment, expired tags, simple violations.”

My response: If you want to research this that would be great. I discussed this in another reply here.

Mr. Asbell said, “Defunding the Poice is a bandaid, a fix to silent the emotional minority voice. What is the root cause of this? The individual disregard of authority, lack of respect for themselves, and others. Failure to take personal responsibility for one’s own actions. You are suggesting a response based upon knee-jerk.”

My response: I do not appreciate your assumption that this is an emotional response from minorities. You may want to check yourself for why you feel this way. If you have been paying attention there’s plenty of reasons minorities would like to have less contact with the police. If its important to you go look it up yourself. I’m not going to debate you unfounded opinions.

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Edward Coleman July 25, 2020 - 6:24 am

Mr Lorson said, “Have you considered that crime has risen due to the growing city, and the police force should probably be growing as well with the growing population? Are these violent crimes that are listed the total, they solved or only the unsolved? I don’t think you recognize how important the police force is to our overall well-being. Have you lived in an area where this crime is common? I don’t see how decreasing the amount of available police would be a good way to combat the prevalence of gang violence and other dangerous crimes.
I think better managing the funding is important, but I strongly disagree with your plan to defund the police.

My response: Crime in Reno has been consistently falling for over a decade. Population growth is not necessarily a determinant of a rise in crime. The crime number I reported were the crime numbers RPD reported to the FBI. The link to the information is in the article. I think I do understand how the police affect a communities well being.

Thank you for your response.

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Edward Coleman July 25, 2020 - 6:20 am

JE’AN LEE HOWE, said, “Let’s Use Common Sense…. I disagree with the idea that hopping on the political bandwagon and defunding the police which seems more like a national fad than a problem solver. This type of political action will not lead to a better outcome. Reno can seriously apply reform and support it’s police officers at the same time.

My response: Insanity is defined as performing the same actions over and over and expecting different responses. Police reform has been on the table in this country historically for over 100 years and we are still having the same issues. Its time to try something new. If you have proof of something that has never been tried failing, I would like to see it.

Thank you for your response.

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Edward Coleman July 25, 2020 - 6:16 am

I want to thank everyone who has read my opinion and left a response. Here are some responses;

David Judy said, “Police work has been and will always be reactive. Assigning budgetary allotments to the nature of crimes committed is impossible because each and every officer has no idea what they will encounter at the start of each shift.”

My reply: Mr Judy, you are correct that police are reactive and this is because they cannot predict when crime will happen yet it does not stop people from saying that police prevent crime and base things like the number of police needed in an area on an unrelated dependent variable like population size… As far as the second part about budgeting based on crime, I am assuming this is in response to the 8k total per crime, dividing property vs violent crime (and how much budget is devoted to each based on the number) and the time study proposals. (If not please let me know). A time study can do two things. 1) it can free people from burdensome administrative/bureaucratic tasks and more clearly define their duties for efficient time use. The 8k and division by crime type are just straight calculations and a way to look at funding. It is fair to say that for each crime we are paying 8k based on the budget whether there is an escalation or not. It should be understood that not every crime costs 8k but our budget provides for that.

Mr Judy said, “It would be unwise to assume that ticket able offenses are generally committed by “good” people and violent crimes by ” bad” people. My wife has related to me time and again how some of the most routine stops can escalate into dramatic levels of danger for all concerned.”

My response: I did not say good or bad people performed any type of crime and only reported on the crime numbers themselves. As far as routine stops escalating, I am aware of that. I do not see how that is relevant to what I am proposing. The only context I see is where I said some types of auto related crimes (with conditions) can be de-prioritized. They can. Insurance company apps now allow for the collection of data related to car crashes and make the presence of police secondary. We should be using our policing resources smarter is my reasoning.

Mr Judy said, “Regarding increasing budget for better mental health service I agree completely. Police officers are given training in how to approach people with mental disorders ,i.e. a person that is not acting rationally but has not committed a crime.”

My reply: Miciah Lee in Sparks was in a mental health crisis and the trained officers knew going in yet he was murdered. I’m skeptical of their training. There are numerous news articles of individuals with mental disorders being injured/murdered by police.

Mr Judy said, “This should not come from police budgets rather, more logically from available health care and social service budgets. Less contact between officers and the public is not an answer because inter human interaction is the basis for establishing communication and order in any given municipality .How can anyone trust police officers if they are seldom seen not providing ” public safety and trust”as you hope .”

My reply: Using the Reno City Budget, public safety, (police and fire) are over 50% of the total budget while anything that might be related to social services is in total under 5%. part of this is the nature of the Reno City Charter (social services are mostly handled by the county). If an audit proves fraud waste and abuse, or misuse of funds, what do you propose doing with these funds continue to allow them to be misused or remove them which will not reduce police functionality it will just remove the amount being mishandled? I know there are actions the Reno City Council can take to improve social services (they do fund our homeless shelters) within their purview and that’s what I am advocating for. Community policing like you’re talking about is not being used currently in Reno and police can build trust by not killing people and generally not harassing vulnerable communities which decreases trust so reducing their contact is a logical way to go about this. As a contrast, no one is trying to defund the Fire Department and their budget is almost as large as the police departments.

Mr Judy said, “NO social programs or neighborhood outreach programs provided by reducing police department budgets will reduce or prevent violent crimes. for example, our downtown area has casinos, bars, and other forms of entertainment that provide opportunities to gamble and consume alcohol, encouraging bad behavior. Human beings can be volatile and unpredictable , who hasn’t heard the term ” a crime of passion” ?”

My reply: I linked one research document that supported my point. If you have research backing up your assertion that social programs do not reduce crime, I would like to see it. I never said there would be no police and that there would not be crimes for them.
What i did say was that social ills that drive poverty drive crime. You’re making a false comparison linking behavior (gambling and drinking to crime) which i disagree with. Otherwise, I’m standing behind my point that social programs reduce crime. Crime of passion generally fall into the violent crime aspect of reported crime. This is an area where the RPD has failed and its the part of crime that has increased from 5% to over 20% in 2018.

Mr Judy said, “Defunding police budgets would certainly not attract better candidates if salaries and benefits are further reduced.”

My reply: I never said their benefits or wages should be reduced. I did say the total number of officer should be decreased. Do you know that in their contract with the city they have they have guaranteed cost of living adjustments built in and while all other public employees are being furloughed and not having a cost of wage increase they will…

Mr Judy said, “I hope you read this as I would love to discuss this in a logical and reasonable manner or with anyone that is interested.”

My reply: Thank you so much for your response. I always prefer an exchange of ideas. Be well.

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David Judy July 24, 2020 - 1:05 pm

Thank you Mr. Coleman for a well constructed airing of your opinion on law enforcement funding. However, in the spirit of honest discourse and frank discussion of issues in our country which are SORELY lacking, I would like to present a few points of my own.I will admit that my opinions are somewhat slanted as my wife was a police officer in San Diego for 30 years.

Police work has been and will always be reactive. Assigning budgetary allotments to the nature of crimes committed is impossible because each and every officer has no idea what they will encounter at the start of each shift. It would be unwise to assume that ticket able offenses are generally committed by “good” people and violent crimes by ” bad” people. My wife has related to me time and again how some of the most routine stops can escalate into dramatic levels of danger for all concerned. Investigations of all crime whether against property or bodily harm deny agencies the opportunity to establish crime patterns in certain areas ( where there would then be proactive policing) and prevent accurate crime analysis .

Regarding increasing budget for better mental health service I agree completely. Police officers are given training in how to approach people with mental disorders ,i.e. a person that is not acting rationally but has not committed a crime. Rather than asking such individuals to” move along ” better sustainable care and a safe haven for treatment are needed. This should not come from police budgets rather, more logically from available health care and social service budgets. Less contact between officers and the public is not an answer because inter human interaction is the basis for establishing communication and order in any given municipality .How can anyone trust police officers if they are seldom seen not providing ” public safety and trust”as you hope .

It is reasonable that any government agency should be audited as they are accountable to their electorate.Each agency has its own unique allotment of funds and your inference that funding certain crimes just would not work. NO social programs or neighborhood outreach programs provided by reducing police department budgets will reduce or prevent violent crimes. for example, our downtown area has casinos, bars, and other forms of entertainment that provide opportunities to gamble and consume alcohol, encouraging bad behavior. Human beings can be volatile and unpredictable , who hasn’t heard the term ” a crime of passion” ?

I also agree that better screening of potential candidates for law enforcement positions is needed. In general across our country individuals applying for police agency positions are no longer the ” best of the best”.This is a multi layered problem but more obvious issues relate to criminal background checks and the decrease in salaries and benefits available to officers. It would be difficult to determine if an officer candidate would eventually display racial hatred . Most agencies require polygraph testing during the interview process perhaps unveiling some racist trends early. Unless there was a criminal record for an individual related to hate crime or public knowledge of membership in racist organization, it would be difficult to root out racist trends prior to hiring. Police officers are choosing a career to raise families, buy homes, cars and educate they children as will all desire. Defunding police budgets would certainly not attract better candidates if salaries and benefits are further reduced.

I hope you read this as I would love to discuss this in a logical and reasonable manner or with anyone that is interested.

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Je'an Lee Howe July 15, 2020 - 6:31 am

Let’s Use Common Sense…. I disagree with the idea that hopping on the political bandwagon and defunding the police which seems more like a national fad than a problem solver. This type of political action will not lead to a better outcome. Reno can seriously apply reform and support it’s police officers at the same time. The unions and political leaders need to actually work together with the police officers and their leadership to reform in a positive way that will assure safety and also stream line the system without turning Reno into a social testing ground that will leave residences open to crime and danger…..

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Jared Lorson July 13, 2020 - 2:50 pm

Have you considered that crime has risen due to the growing city, and the police force should probably be growing as well with the growing population? Are these violent crimes that are listed the total, they solved or only the unsolved? I don’t think you recognize how important the police force is to our overall well-being. Have you lived in an area where this crime is common? I don’t see how decreasing the amount of available police would be a good way to combat the prevalence of gang violence and other dangerous crimes.
I think better managing the funding is important, but I strongly disagree with your plan to defund the police.

Avatar
Christopher Pitts July 12, 2020 - 6:16 pm

Get rid of this insane “Defund the Police” idea. If you want more versatile services, integrate some of our socicialmservices into the police for so that social workers can respond to calls that are appropriate to them rather than the cops, but the idea that the police should be less empowered to do their job is insanity.

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Franklin D Asbell July 12, 2020 - 1:52 pm

I am curious, how does the Police Officer know whether or not it is a Mental Health issue prior to arriving and assessing the situation. Often, alcohol or violent related crimes are initiated by those with Mental Illness, do they bring a firearm?

And traffic stops, what percentage of Fatal shootings of Police Officers is performed due to simple traffic stops, i.e. faulty safety equipment, expired tags, simple violations.

Defunding the Poice is a bandaid, a fix to silent the emotional minority voice. What is the root cause of this? The individual disregard of authority, lack of respect for themselves, and others. Failure to take personal responsibility for one’s own actions. You are suggesting a response based upon knee-jerk.

Avatar
Arlyn Pacheco July 12, 2020 - 11:22 am

Great plan Mr.Coleman. A little shocked to see the crime types and increased rates. Definitely more accountability and auditing to better allocate the funds to better our policing activities and community. Thank you.

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