Wednesday Edition: City Budgets Cut Cops

This is the sort of issue that could resonate with voters in the fall. The New York Times points out that many police forces around the country are cutting the number of officers on the force and are killing innovative programs to fight crime. Cleveland, Ohio, laid off 250 officers. Saginaw, Mich., lost a third of its force.

The Kerry-Edwards campaign has already tapped into the “we should not be building fire stations in Baghdad and closing them here at home” theme.

The Times reports:

The cities cutting their police forces are struggling with financial problems that have persisted even as some states are beginning to report an increase in tax revenue after a few very lean years. The financial strain has been compounded by a decline in supplemental money from the federal government and the states.

The story offers this insight:

Since 1995, Cleveland has received $34 million for new police officers, Mayor Campbell said.

But this year it will receive only $498,000 from Washington for all police programs, and President Bush’s proposed budget would cut that figure in half.

The pressure on police departments has grown in some ways even as their budgets have fallen. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has greatly decreased its crime-fighting work, like investigating bank robberies and drug deals, to concentrate on counterterrorism operations.

And many of the nation’s 17,000 police forces have been ordered by the federal government to deploy more officers to combat terrorism, in tasks like guarding airports and water works. Cleveland spent $9 million on federally mandated counterterrorism operations last year, with little reimbursement from the federal government, Mayor Campbell said.

Donald Pussehl Jr., the police chief in Saginaw, summed up what many police officials are saying about the cuts and redeployments. “We are going backwards, and that’s really unfortunate,” Chief Pussehl said.

“We are having to discontinue many of the proactive strategies like community policing, which we developed in the ’90s, and just go back to basics like sitting in patrol cars waiting for calls for service after a crime has been committed,” he said.

Why Don’t Young People Vote?

In the 2004 primary, 18- to 29-year-old voters stayed home in astonishing numbers.

  • In South Carolina, for example, where 18- to 29-year-olds represent 19 percent of the population, they represented only 9 percent of voters.

  • In Oklahoma, 18- to 29-year-olds make up 21 percent of the population but only 6 percent of the voters.

  • In California, young voters represent 22 percent of the population, but only 11 percent of voters.

Click here to see state-by-state youth voter registration, turnout, and voting laws.

Four years ago, 18- to 24-year-old voters turned out in biggest percentages in Alaska (63 percent), North Dakota (62 percent), Maine (60 percent), the District of Columbia (57 percent), and Wisconsin (56 percent).

Youth voter turnout in 2000 was lowest in (PDF): Arizona (28 percent), New Mexico (28 percent), Tennessee (28 percent), and South Dakota (27 percent). Youth voter turnout was lowest in Hawaii at 22 percent. This was especially odd since Gore was from Tennessee.

I wonder what you could learn about the people who are the political leaders of our cities and nation today. Did they learn about political involvement from their parents? Did they talk about politics and current events at home?

The Center for Democracy and Citizenship found:

Only 50 percent (of young adults) say they discussed politics, government, or current events with their parents (down from 57 percent in 1998). Nineteen percent say “never” vs. 15 percent (who say) “often.”

A University of Maryland study of young adults ages 15 to 25 shows:

Of those who grew up with political discussion in the home, 75 percent are registered to vote (vs. 57 percent rate of registration among those who did not have political discussion in the home); 71 percent trust government (vs. 53 percent); 68 percent believe voting is important (vs. 33 percent); 57 percent believe politicians pay attention to their concerns (vs. 39 percent); and 56 percent believe they can make a difference solving community problems (vs. 37 percent).

All of this may explain some of the following responses. Young people say they have little interest in political involvement.

Political Engagement and Voting

    • Eighty percent are unlikely to work for local government and 75 percent are unlikely to work for the federal government.

    • Fifty-seven percent say they are unlikely to run for an elected leadership position (vs. 32 percent in 1998), 53 percent are unlikely to work for a political party, 50 percent are unlikely to join a political organization, and 46 percent are unlikely to volunteer in a political campaign.

    • Fifty percent say voting is important (49 percent not important).

    • Thirty-four percent see voting as a choice vs. 20 percent a responsibility and only 9 percent a duty.

    • Only 53 percent say government and elections address their needs and concerns, and only 48 percent say political leaders pay attention to the concerns of young people.

    • Only 46 percent say they can make a difference in solving community problems (52 percent: little or no difference).

Off-Duty Retired Officers Packing Heat

I should have picked up on this a couple of days ago, but I still think it is an interesting story worth developing. President Bush signed a bill into law that allows retired and off-duty police officers to carry weapons even outside their own jurisdiction. The Fraternal Order of Police backed the idea big time.

Have you talked to officers about this?

Supporters say it makes sense to have armed officers ready to serve wherever they are. Do cities and states have any liability issues with this?

Law Firms Blog for Clients

The National Law Journal says big law firms now not only defend their clients, they set up blogs for them. Weblogs for trials are new enough that it isn’t clear whether they’re covered by court-imposed gag orders.

Consumers Still Falling for Phish Scams

One out of three online users could not tell a bogus e-mail from a real one.

MSNBC says:

According to a study released in April by Gartner’s Avivah Litan, 1.78 million Americans say they’ve fallen for a fake e-mail and willingly provided credit card numbers, bank account PINs, and other information to computer criminals.

Kids Alone at Theme Parks

Al’s Morning Meeting reader Dan Sewell, from The Cincinnati Enquirer, sent me a story his paper did about parents who drop their kids off at theme parks and let the kids roam all day on their own. monitors safety issues in theme parks nationwide.

We are always looking for your great ideas. Send Al a few sentences and hot links.

Editor’s Note: Al’s Morning Meeting is a compendium of ideas, story excerpts, and other materials from a variety of websites, as well as original concepts and analysis. When the information comes directly from another source, it will be attributed, and a link will be provided, whenever possible.

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