As more Inland Empire residents struggled with poverty and paying rent, police protection took a bigger slice of Inland city budgets — even in cities with little violent crime, a new UC Berkeley institute study found.
“Governing Inequities Through Police in the Inland Empire” also found that Inland cities spent more than $1 billion on law enforcement in 2018.
The study “focuses on the obscene costs of policing and contrasts that with community and people investments that could be made, but aren’t,” said Vonya Quarles, executive director of the Corona-based Starting Over Inc., which offers transitional housing and re-entry help to the homeless, the formerly incarcerated and others.
The president of the Riverside County sheriff’s deputies union questioned the study’s data and findings.
“This was a study generated for headlines, offering no meaningful (or frankly any) analysis on the relationship between spending on law enforcement and violent crime rates,” Bill Young of the Riverside Sheriffs’ Association said via email.
The director of government and media relations for the Sheriff’s Employees’ Benefit Association, the union representing San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies, also criticized the study. Outsiders don’t realize Inland residents “overwhelmingly” support public safety and have a close relationship with officers, Lolita Harper said via email.
“In San Bernardino County, we survived a terrorist attack together, and overall, our residents know that our police force is dedicated to their safety,” Harper wrote. “This is (a) special relationship that outsiders — especially those in (Berkeley) — likely do not understand.”
Spokespeople for the Riverside and San Bernardino counties’ sheriffs’ departments did not respond to requests for comment.
Released this month, the study by a researcher at UC Berkeley’s Othering & Belonging Institute comes during a national debate over police spending. Protests against police brutality and systemic racism sparked by the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, police custody fueled calls to cut police budgets and reallocate the money to social programs, schools, and other ways to help disadvantaged communities.
“Defund the police” supporters have urged Riverside County supervisors in recent meetings to slash the Sheriff’s Department budget. The Board of Supervisors in June allocated more county dollars to the sheriff as part of a $6.5 billion budget for the new fiscal year.
The study focused on Riverside and San Bernardino counties because author, Ángel Mendiola Ross, a Ph.D. student in UC Berkeley’s sociology department who grew up in the Inland Empire, saw a lack of research on the region.
Poverty, renters on the rise
Ross’s study found that since 2000, poverty has increased in “the vast majority” of Inland communities, especially those in the desert. And it rose disproportionately among Blacks and Latinos, the study found.
As Inland poverty grew, so did the number of renters, the study found. Renters are the majority of households in 17 Inland cities and unincorporated communities — up from five in 2000 — while 17 cities and unincorporated areas saw a double-digit rise in the percentage of renters. For example, Wildomar’s share of renters doubled to almost 31% in 2017, according to the study.
In 95 Inland cities and unincorporated communities, a majority of renters are “rent burdened,” meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on housing. Fifty-nine percent of Inland renter households are rent burdened. The statewide average is 56%. Riverside and San Bernardino counties had California’s highest eviction rates in 2016, the study found.
But instead of finding ways to help renters or lower poverty, Inland cities spent more on police, the study concludes.
In 2018, six Inland cities devoted at least 30% of their budgets to police and the average share of police spending in Inland city budgets rose from 20.6% in 2003 to 24.8% in 2016 before dropping to 20.4% in 2018, according to the study.
Jurupa Valley led the way in California among cities with 100,000 or more residents by allocating 37% of its budget to police in 2018, according to the study. Like 15 of 28 cities in Riverside County, Jurupa Valley, which incorporated in 2011, has a contract with the sheriff for police services.
Jurupa Valley City Manager Rod Butler said in an email that police takes up a large share of Jurupa Valley’s budget because the city doesn’t provide the same range of services as other cities. For example, parks and recreation and water and wastewater services are handled by non-city public agencies.
“Our City Council has always prioritized having a safe community with good law enforcement response times,” Butler wrote, adding that city leaders are “comfortable” with their investment.
The city of San Bernardino, which has its own police department, set aside 31% of its budget — $74.5 million — for police in 2018 — 11 times what it spent on housing and community development, the study states. San Bernardino City Councilman Henry Nickel said higher spending on police “is a symptom of the problem,” not the problem itself.
“This study just prefers to look at one part of the equation,” he said. “Law enforcement deals with the consequences of poor public policy.”
If cities don’t discuss policies to get residents out of poverty such as by investing in education and helping them get better-paying jobs, then “we have to spend more on law enforcement to deal with the consequences of poverty,” he said.
Cutting police funding isn’t the answer, Nickel said.
“I don’t think the failure is in law enforcement,” he said. “We need to start asking ourselves ‘Why are we not getting a better return on our investment in education?’”
Public safety dollars defended
Young, the Riverside County deputies union president, said Riverside County’s 2018 spending on law enforcement “served county residents well” and was a recognition of deputies work the year before that saw an 8.8% drop in violent crime in unincorporated areas and cities patrolled by the sheriff.
The study fails to prove there’s no link between police spending and violent crime rates, said Young, who also took issue with its numbers. While the author states that 2014 crime numbers were the most recent available, more recent statistics are readily accessible, Young argued.
According to Ross, 2014 was the most recent crime data in the online database used for the study. “Because there were weak correlations between violent crime rates and the share of city spending on police from 2003 to 2014, we did not pursue the issue further,” Ross said.
In response to Young’s critique, Ross said he added violent crime data from 2015 through 2018 into the database and still found “a very weak relationship” between violent crime rates and police spending.
Quarles of Starting Over Inc. said in an email that the study should spur a closer look at police spending.
“Why can’t we re-purpose some of that annual $1 billion to housing solutions, child care, economic development, education, environmental solutions, or whatever growing community needs (there are)?” she asked.دانلود مقاله رایگان