By Barry Sherman
Our government has spent hundreds of billions of dollars bailing out Wall Street, banks, and the auto industry. When are they going to realize that the most essential service that keeps order in society and prevents it from turning to anarchy is being gutted and needs a serious bailout?
It has been ten years since I retired from law enforcement and I continue to be amazed at the low priority politicians give to the police. This low priority was exemplified when our governor classified the state police as non-essential if a state shut down of services occur in the event a state budget is not approved by the deadline. Not to mention that she laid off over 100 low seniority state troopers in a department that is already depleted in manpower. Troopers have been ordered to park their patrol units and not exceed a maximum amount of miles that have been set so that the state can save on gas. Did they ever consider the cost of crime that will be committed will far exceed the savings of gas due to the lack of visibility and pro-active policing?
I hear regularly from the officers in my program at Madonna University related to cutbacks and sacrifices they face or are asked to take in their departments such as:
Wage freezes or reductions
Reduced quality of health insurance with higher co-pays
Return of furlough days
Loss of court time
Loss of overtime details
Reduced reimbursement or total elimination of higher education tuition
Reduced numbers of patrol cars on the road (officer safety issues)
Equipment not being replaced in a timely manner
How do you ask men and women who put their lives and personal safety on the line every day to protect their communities to accept these conditions and not expect their job performance to be affected by morale issues?
To compound this problem, I would like to refer back to an article I wrote for this publication in the Winter 2008 edition titled “Dumping Felons on the Streets is Not the Answer”. At that time our state prison population was at 51,000 with plans to parole 5,000 with 1300 fewer police officers on the street and an unemployment rate of 7%. The executive branch now has a goal of bringing down the prison population to 43,500 inmates, with fewer officers than we had in 2008 and an unemployment rate that now tops 15%. WHAT ARE THEY THINKING? One only has to keep up with the local news to learn how many of these new parolees that have been released under this new state initiative have come out to commit horrible and unthinkable crimes. Prosecutors such as Jessica Cooper of Oakland County want the names of those being considered for parole so they can decide if they want to attempt to block the parole. The state refuses to provide these names. The Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan has backed this effort along with the criteria that is being used for parole consideration.
In anticipation of all the new open beds in Michigan, Governor Granholm went shopping to find other states who would want to send their prisoners to Michigan. There was talk of California sending some of their finest to Michigan. This deal was quashed when California stated Michigan wanted twenty more dollars a day more than it cost them to house their own inmates. Michigan did not include medical care for inmates in their offer which would have added to the cost. I fail to see the logic in emptying our prisons to house inmates of other states. If we want to save jobs for Michigan corrections officers, let’s do it with Michigan inmates who will be detrimental to society if they are released early.
I wish I could be an optimist and say the Michigan economy is going to recover and this is only temporary. However, let’s not fool ourselves. We have permanently lost tens of thousands of jobs in this state related to manufacturing. Home foreclosures continue and property values are still plummeting. Although I am glad the movie industry has taken an interest in Michigan, one has to be delusional if they think this is going to put a dent in the amount of jobs lost in the auto industry.
The perfect storm is here for sky rocketing crime rates. The economy, cutbacks in numbers of police officers, wholesale parole of inmates, and 15%+ unemployment rates will add to this disaster. The federal government needs to infuse dollars into state law enforcement. It doesn’t matter if you call it a “bailout” or “economic stimulus”. The fact remains that criminal justice is in serious trouble in Michigan and needs help. The feds have already lined the pockets of the “fat cats” of Wall Street who continue to receive huge salaries and large bonuses under the guise of a “bailout”. Why not do it where it will benefit