The City Manager and the Police Chief continue to beat the drum for hiring more police officers. In a story in the Tennessean’s Wilson A.M. section on 9/23/2009 they tried their best to build support for increasing the Mt. Juliet Police Department.
“We are the smallest state per capita police department,” Robertson said. “We don’t have enough police officers.” “A city the size of Mt. Juliet should ahve 70-75 officers,” Robertson said.
Those statements are laughable and only make sense if you believe that the crime rate in Mt. Juliet is the same as inner city Nashville, the Lebanon public housing projects, or Detroit. (You can review comparative crime stats and analysis here).
The truth is, of course, that it’s not. In fact, the same Wilson AM story reported that crime in Mt. Juliet is down by 12 percent from the previous year. If Mt. Juliet’s crime rate is decreasing, how can it be true at the same time that the Police Department is too small?
Robertson and Chief Garrett point to an increase of 67% in “calls for service,” but even this, by itself doesn’t prove the need for more officers. If an eight hour shift of officers handled 10 calls a shift last year, and now they’re handling 16 calls a shift, then calls for service are up 67%. But that doesn’t mean you have to hire new officers. They still might not be at capacity.
If Mt. Juliet did have 70-75 officers (that would be about 67% more than the 43 they have now) they might write a lot more tickets for city court, but there’s very little prospect that the 32 new officers would make much difference in the already low crime rate in Mt. Juliet, which, despite the population growth and the opening of new retail centers, has been going down.
First rule of sociology: Every organization or department wants to grow. And police officers (like firemen or building inspectors) always want you to hire more police officers. Ocassionally they’re right. But they can hardly be expected to be objective about it.