Black America: If $Millions More In Police Funding Solves Public Safety Issues, Explain Frank James

Black America: If $Millions More In Police Funding Solves Public Safety Issues, Explain Frank James


Photo: New York City Police and law enforcement officials arrest subway shooting suspect Frank R. James, 62, in New York, April 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a former cop, was elected on a promise to curb rising gun violence in the Big Apple but he has been criticized for taking credit when the New York Police Department arrested Frank James.

James went on a shooting rampage in a Brooklyn subway station on April 12, shooting 10 people and injuring 23.

A massive manhunt ensued, but James himself and others in the community alerted law enforcement to his whereabouts and he was arrested on April 13. 

This has Black America asking: if millions more spent on police funding solves public safety issues, why did Frank James happen?

James, 62, was arrested and charged with a federal terrorism offense after the suspect called police to come and get him, law enforcement officials said. He was taken into custody about 30 hours after the gun violence took place on a subway train at rush hour, The Associated Press reported.

“My fellow New Yorkers, we got him,” Mayor Eric Adams said. 

In February, the mayor’s first budget proposal called for across-the-board cuts to most city agencies– except the police, leaving police funding flat. While Adams did not ask for an increase in the budget, he made no cuts to it as he did for other agencies. Adams said he did not have to increase the police budget and argued that he could improve public safety without increasing police spending by moving officers from desks to the streets, The New York Times reported. 

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“We’re going to redeploy our manpower, we’re going to make sure that everyone who is supposed to be on the streets doing their job is doing their job, and then we will make the analysis if we have to put more money into it,” Adams said.

Still, the NYPD budget is around $5.4 billion.

A review of spending on state and local police over the past 60 years shows no correlation between spending and crime rates nationwide. In 1960, about $2 billion was spent by state and local governments on police. There were about 1,887 crimes per 100,000 Americans, including 161 violent crimes. By 1980, spending had increased to $14.6 billion — and crime rates had risen to 5,950 crimes per 100,000 Americans and 597 violent crimes. Crime and spending increased at a similar rate until the early 1990s, when crime rates began to fall but spending kept rising, according to the Washington Post.

“If more cops is always more efficient, why couldn’t cops & the FBI track Frank James down, with so much information? Why did it take an unpaid citizen to call them. Did the number of cops matter??” tweeted The Moguldom Nation CEO Jamarlin Martin.

Martin added, “I don’t know if the simple more cops increases efficiency & results is capitalist or anti-capitalist. It would be hard to find a hardcore capitalist looking at a financial problem this way (hire more, spend more money is only way, etc).”

There is much debate over the most efficient way to fight crime, and whether defunding the police is the answer or if police budgets should be beefed up.

New York University economist Morgan Williams and his colleagues released research in 2020 that looked at the police funding issue.

Williams, Aaron Chalfin, Benjamin Hansen, and Emily Weisburst published the research paper “Police Force Size and Civilian Race” and they concluded that adding a new police officer to a city prevents between 0.06 and 0.1 homicides, which means that the average city would need to hire between 10 and 17 new police officers to save one life a year. In the average city, larger police forces result in Black lives saved at about twice the rate of white lives saved (relative to their percentage of the population), the researchers found.

However, adding more police officers to a city means more arrests for petty, low-level, victimless crimes such as disorderly conduct, drinking in public, drug possession, and loitering. Black people are disproportionately targeted in these types of low-level arrests.

In cities with the largest populations of Black people, additional police officers don’t seem to lower the homicide rate, researchers concluded. More police officers in these cities actually resulted in more arrests of Black people for low-level crimes.

This is why organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union call for defunding the police and allocating police funding into community services.

In New York City “the government spends almost $6 billion on policing, which is more than it does on the Department of Health, Homeless Services, Housing Preservation and Development, and Youth and Community development combined,” the ACLU stated.

“By shrinking their massive budgets, we can help end decades of racially driven social control and oppression as well as address social problems at their root instead of investing in an institution that further oppresses and terrorizes communities.”

Other experts say it isn’t the amount of money a police department has, but how the money is used, that has a positive outcome on public safety. “Most police departments have issues, not with the number of officers, it’s with how they are deployed and scheduled,” said Alexander Weiss, a police staffing consultant. “It’s more important what the officers do, versus how many of them there are.”

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New Yorkers slammed Adams for taking credit for the shooting suspect’s arrest when bystander Zack Tahhan called it in, tweeted Daily Mail reporter Jen Smith.

“The NYPD is incompetent, don’t get me wrong – but Frank James shares their views as a right winger. Not surprised if they let him slide too,” tweeted WVTT$).

Photo: New York City Police and law enforcement officials arrest subway shooting suspect Frank R. James, 62, in New York, April 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)