Advocates for Proposition U make much of the fact that we need more police officers. It would lead one to believe that we want to hire more officers, but the department is bumping up against its budget, so they are not able to do it. Were that true, it would be a good point. But it has been a long time since it was true. The graph at the top of this article shows our city’s spending on police personnel, going back to 2010. The blue line is the budget, the red line is actual expenses. If you want to check our numbers, you can spend an hour on the city’s finance department page and review all those budgets for yourself.
As you can plainly see, it has been a long time since the police department spent its entire personnel budget. If you want to see the raw data, it’s here. Our police department had small personnel deficits in 2014 and 2015, years during which there were large scale protests in our city. Since then, they have come very far from spending their personnel budget, with the 2022 surplus forecast to be larger than ever, nearly $1.4 million.
With a $1.4 million surplus, we could have given police officers that $5,000 raise without a tax increase. We could have hired new officers. But we did neither of those things. The problem isn’t that we don’t have the money, it’s that we don’t have the leadership. Passing a new tax, which the city says will raise between $1 milion and $1.5 million, won’t magically fix our police problem, it will just make all of us a little more poor.