Feature 09.21.2020 8 minutes

Fund the Police


To save America, we need more police funding, not less.

The United States of America is in the sixth month of a nationwide nightmare. A pandemic of questionable proportions led the journo-politico-grifter class to shut down the country, throw millions of people out of their jobs, and then stoke the kindling by promoting the lie that America is a fundamentally racist nation.

Having massively expanded the number of discontented young Americans to proportions the country hasn’t seen since the 1960s, this same journo-politico-grifter class writes memos and tweets from blue-checked Twitter accounts that we ought to reduce funding to police departments. In between running 5-figure “white fragility” workshops and writing about how America’s police are a fundamentally racist institution, they turn around and assure the concerned not-journo-politico-grifter masses that when they say “defund the police,” they really just mean “put more money into social workers and welfare net programs.”

Joe Biden, who represents the party of this madness, tried to pull that con just the other day, making the absurd statement that it is Trump who wants to defund the police. This despite the fact that Biden has spent months happily pandering to his riotous base with promises to “redirect” police funding—i.e., take money away from cops, i.e., defund them.

Don’t fall for it. Reduced police funding—whether through redirecting funds elsewhere, shrinking police pensions, or generally slashing budgets—is the last thing that Americans should want. If the journo-politico-grifter class had ever worked a real day in their lives, let alone run a business or hired people, they would recognize this. But the incentives of institutions like HR departments, six-figure prep schools, and Teach For America don’t reflect real life.

For Real Solutions, Pay Better

A friend who had never hired a subordinate before told me last year that he had hired a new subordinate. The new hire had about a decade of experience and was moving from a notoriously expensive metro area. “How much did he ask for?” “About $35,000/year.”

I immediately warned my friend that this hire would not work out. He was far too cheap, I told him: that price should be a red flag. A skilled candidate with that much experience would likely request at least twice as much in the initial negotiation. If he’s accepting such low pay, it’s probably the best he can get. If that’s the best he can get, he’s not a skilled candidate.

He was fired shortly after the pandemic started.

There are some things in life that one should never bargain shop for—skilled talent is one of those things. People take time to train and manage. If they underperform they can mess up things at work and create a lot more work for other people.

One of the biggest reasons why companies fail to keep up with sales demand is that they lack quality employees. Imagine a hypothetical firm that could really use some great talent. The company has grown in the past and needs to keep up with the problems associated with growth. They need more engineers, more salespeople, and more managers to make sure that they can continue delivering to clients.

But imagine the company is suddenly taken over by a member of the journo-politico-grifter class and her fellow Wokenistas. They decide to pay below-market rates for what is undoubtedly a set of difficult jobs. They slash benefits. They reduce funding to various departments (except for HR—have to keep those struggle sessions going!).

Good engineers, salespeople, and managers won’t even consider working there. Why take a hard job with poor pay and benefits when you can do so much better elsewhere? Why work somewhere that won’t pay you what you are worth?

Our hypothetical company will struggle to hire the talent it needs in order to survive. The people who will apply to the job will be those who can’t get jobs elsewhere—the young, the unqualified, and the under-skilled. This will create more problems for the company in the long run. Eventually, it will have to sell to a private equity firm that will use its deep pockets to fix the problems created by subpar managers.

The Dangerous Reality of Dangerous Cities

In no other industry would you propose to pay people less for doing hard and dangerous jobs. This is especially true if there are identifiable problems in that industry’s organizations and if those organizations have a hard time recruiting.

America’s police officers are in an even more dire position than engineers and salespeople. They have to know how to de-escalate domestic abuse scenarios, talk the suicidal off ledges, deal with dangerous drug addicts hell-bent on getting their next fix, all while fielding criticism from a citizenry that is often hostile to their presence in the inner cities.

Given all this, one would think that police in America’s cities must be paid well, right? If you were a city manager and had serious problems in your city, you’d want top talent going to help fix these problems. You’d be paying them well. Right?


The median pay for police in the United States is about $31.44/hour, or $65,400. That’s less than the hourly pay for nurses ($37.24/hour), air traffic controllers ($57.76), and the national pay for teachers ($65,930). But that’s for the United States in general, not for the police in the most dangerous cities in the country.

The best-paying metros for police include areas like Silicon Valley, Santa Rosa, Napa, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, and other idyllic Californian cities with high costs of living. Beyond California, top-paying non-metro regions include Alaska and parts of Connecticut.

Notably absent: Detroit, St. Louis, Memphis, Baltimore, Portland, even New York City. The only city that makes both the list of most dangerous cities and highest median pay for law enforcement is Vallejo, CA.

Anybody who has ever done any hiring can tell you this is a recipe for disaster. Who would want to be a cop in these cities? The top-of-the-academy officers go and work in safe suburbs that pay well. Meanwhile, the police departments that need the best-trained, best-skilled, and best-tempered police officers struggle to attract candidates while politicians play with their budgets.

Do Not Rely on Overtime

When push comes to shove, police departments will make up for gaps in pay and recruiting by using generous overtime budgets, as became evident during 2020’s Summer of Rage. This is a powder keg waiting to explode. It’s a testament to the general quality of America’s police that there haven’t been more police-protester clashes in 2020. The problem here can be shown with another analogy.

Imagine you have a crisis that requires airline pilots to fly a lot. They have to fly through storms with passengers who are boisterous, won’t get on the plane in time, and generally make the job much more stressful. Pilots are (were?) in short supply, so you’re not just going to hire hundreds of new pilots overnight. Instead, you’ll extend overtime pay. An 8-hour day becomes a 12-hour day. One 12-hour day becomes two 12-hour days. Two 12-hour days become a week of 12-hour days.

Eventually, you’ll get planes falling out of the sky. This is essentially what happened in 2009 when Colgan Air Flight 3407 crashed in Clarence Center, New York. Overworked, tired, underpaid pilots eventually made mistakes. The FAA has since instituted fatigue regulations and increased training requirements for pilots. This gets passed on in the wages for pilots, which have steadily tracked upwards in recent years.

Do not rely on overtime pay for people in hard jobs involving dangerous interactions with others.

Tie Pay to States

This all sounds hypothetically great until you realize the cities that need better pay for cops the most are also the cities most likely to suffer complete economic failure. As violence in America’s cities reaches a fever pitch in coming months, more established Americans will move to the suburbs and take the tax base with them. Revenue that would have come in from everything from events to restaurants to property taxes will dry up. Mayors and governors will cry for a bailout from the Federal Government.

It’s tempting to let the failed politicians of failed cities and states lie in the beds they’ve made, but, in the words of Rahm Emanuel, never let a crisis go to waste. President Trump should approach Democrats with a proposal: the federal government will backstop your failed states with the full faith and credit of the Federal Reserve’s money printer—in exchange, you have to increase police pay in your most dangerous cities. This money has to go directly to officers’ paychecks and should include a nationwide recruitment push to get more quality officers into the jobs that need them most. To sweeten the deal, the federal government will take the first step by redirecting money from race-based critical theory training programs to bonuses for federal law enforcement officers.

This goes further than Senator Josh Hawley’s proposal to have the DOJ increase police pay. Senator Hawley’s proposal, while a step in the right direction, would punish police officers in cities that have defunded the police for the incompetence of their elected leaders. It would not allow President Trump to be in the position of extending an olive branch as the dealmaker that he is.

Get Great Cops Paid Now

Another friend is the manager of a small borough outside of a dangerous American city. When the low-testosterone jihadis started toppling statues and demanding money be taken from police to fund Drag Queen Story Hour, he was not optimistic. His borough needs only one or two police and rides on the benefit of being near a wealthy suburb where the police are paid very well. But even in his little town, most of the applicants for police positions often work part-time as private security or bouncers elsewhere.

“We once had a guy show up on a motorcycle, wearing a duster and no shirt, and ask for an application,” he told me. “Those are the people you get applying to these $20/hour positions. Now, put them on multiple 12-hour shifts, one night after another, with angry people who are hurling things at them and tell me that that isn’t a recipe for disaster.”

At present, there are ample signs that many formerly dedicated police officers are retiring in the face of the present madness. Guess where a lot of them go after leaving public service? In many well-off areas in America, hypocritical supporters of BLM in the streets sleep soundly in their sheets because their walled-off neighborhoods have hired experienced security guards. The best of those leaving the police force today will fill increasing numbers of increasingly well-paid positions providing private security for the wealthy.

America’s conservatives have a choice. We can let our great cities burn at the hands of a ferociously insurrectionary mob of Marxists and their Democrat backers. We can let the failed politicians of blue cities and states screw over already-underpaid police officers. We can hope that voters see this terror for what it is in November.

Or we can take a position of strength, incentivize the best people to apply for the hardest jobs in our police departments that need help the most, and save America’s cities from decades of burning and decline. This is the moment and the time for a strong federal government response. The future of America is at stake.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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