More Police ≠ Safer Cities!! On Saturday April 9th, New Orleanians are being asked to vote on a new public safety millage to fund the NOPD by an additional $17.7 million a year to increase the size of the NOPD from 1100 to 1600 officers, a 40% increase, by 2020.
As a statement by that local chapter of BYP100 states:
As tax-paying citizens, we want to disrupt the cycle of paying for the government sanctioned harassment that the public refers to as having a police presence. As an organization focused on the creating justice and freedom for all Black people, we cannot support a measure that will fund a system used to oppress people of color and especially in our city, Black youth. Increased police presence will not make our streets safer, especially for those who are systematically criminalized by the police for merely existing in our identities.
Proponents of the measure argue that an even larger police presence would make the city of New Orleans safer; however, we ask “Who protects us when the police are the criminals? Who protects us from the police?” In 2015, the police killed over 100 unarmed Black people. Last year, alone, the police killed at least 105 unarmed Black people. Over 100 unarmed Black people were killed by those paid by our tax dollars to protect and serve us. New Orleans was one of a handful of cities where ONLY Black people were murdered by the police. Who are they protecting? Who are they serving?
So what’s at stake this weekend? A local group called European Dissent put together the following fact sheet:
What’s a millage?
A millage is a property tax that is a based on a percentage of how much a property is assessed as being worth. Unlike millages for road repairs or education, public safety millages are not eligible for homestead exemption.
Isn’t this tax going to fund the firefighters pension?
Mitch Landrieu did decide to fold this policing millage together with a new millage to fund the firefighters pension. While we want to support the firefighters, it should be noted that 2/3 of this millage will be going to the NOPD with only 1/3 to the fire department. We hope that if this millage doesn’t pass, the firefighters pension will be proposed as its own pension to be voted on in a future election.
Isn’t the NOPD too small for the city?
Despite what Mayor Landrieu, Police Superintendent Harrison, and the media says, the NOPD is actually already large for a city our size. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the average ratio of police officers per 1,000 residents in cities with a population over 250,000 is 2.4 officers to 1,000 residents. In New Orleans the current ratio is higher than average at 3.1 police officers to 1,000 residents. Before the storm, the number was slightly higher at 3.3 officers per 1,000 residents. The proposed addition of 500 more NOPD officers would make the New Orleans rate much higher than pre-Katrina at 4.6 officers per 1000 residents—close to double the national average.
Isn’t the NOPD underfunded?
The NOPD is already the highest funded department in the New Orleans government and its budget has only grown over time. In just the last five years, the NOPD’s budget has jumped from $118,626,312 to $161,631,181! It currently has the largest share of the city budget totaling 23.4% of the city’s general fund budget and 15.7% of the city’s overall budget.
Don’t more police mean less crime and more safety?
Social science research has demonstrated through numerous quantitative and qualitative studies that there is no direct relation between increasing policing and reducing safety and, in fact, higher rates of police presence have shown to increase instability and insecurity in communities. Expanding employment opportunities and social services has shown to better reduce violence and create safer communities.
Sources: http://www.nola.gov, US Census, Bureau of Justice Statistics, New Orleans Operating Budget 2011, New Orleans Operating Budget 2016, the Bureau of Governmental Research, and the Orleans Parish Assessors Office.