The Oakland police force suffered a shattering loss last week when four of its officers were killed in a single day. Not only did the shooting highlight the risks police officers take every day, it also highlighted that the Oakland Police force is singularly understaffed. Oakland is also going broke, so much so that it’s contemplating imposing on its beleaguered citizens a 10.25 percent sales tax. Wow!
But back to the force. You’re the City of Oakland. You have too few men and women in blue to keep the peace, but you have no money. What do you do? Turn to the private sector, of course:
The cost of keeping a police officer up and running on the streets of Oakland is about $250,000 a year.
The cost of employing four armed guards to provide security in commercial districts in East Oakland is about $180,000 a year.
You do the math.
The Oakland City Council decision to hire four armed guards unless officers are deployed by the third week in April is a worthy gesture but hardly sufficient to address the security needs of an area besieged by violence and robberies. In a 2003 study on blighted areas, crime rates in East Oakland were nearly 2 1/2 times higher than the rest of the city.
I don’t think any of you can honestly question my support for our police forces. I am daily grateful for their willingness to take the risks so my family and I can live safely. This post, therefore, is not intended in any way to criticize any police force. It is intended, however, to point out that, when you have government squaring off against private industry, the latter, which is responsive to market forces, is almost always cheaper.
This is a reminder that Obama’s increasingly focused effort to expand government is going to cost us lots and lots of money. This burden on taxpayers will arise, not just because a larger government, by definition, demands more money to pay for more services. The burden will also be tremendous because we’ll have to pay for the fact that government invariably runs its business less efficiently than the private sector.