By David Tulis
Modern policing puts into the hands of professional government employees a common law function — that of keeping the peace. But cops do much more than that. They are the strong arm of the state in that they serve to constantly remind the people that they are subject to its law.
They enforce ordinances and statutes against the people for a wide variety of offenses and crimes, many of these victimless. If developments in smart technology and a rise in civic-mindedness among Chattanoogans occur as I suggest, residents will be able to save money as public practice bypasses the calling of cops for aid and protection.
The tech development is the rise of smart phone apps such as Peacekeeper, which privatizes situations that today are commonly attended by police officers. In other words, the Uber cop. Furthering the interest in private peacekeeping solutions is the rash of cop beatings, slayings and murders in the past two years and rising public anger toward police gangs and legal immunities that make police officers impossible to indict and convict.
Chattanooga has 486 police officers, a number that is “an all-time high,” partly to bring about what city government calls “the community-based policing model.” The department has 103 “civilian” staffers, the lowest number in the past 10 years. The largest number was in 2008 with 213 civilian staff (City CAFR, page F-27).
Police dealt with 12,902 crimes committed, 40,727 moving or parking violations and faced 64 citizen complaints in 2014. These tallies are lower than six of the past 10 years (Page F-27).
Police departments are funded by taxation and are a major city expense.
In 2014 the law enforcement arm of the executive branch of city government took the largest allotment of budget dollars. It spent F$55.1 million. The next largest expense was general government for which F$39.8 million was spent. Third largest was the fire department, with F$38.2 million.
Law enforcement through city court brought in F$754,769 in fines. Criminal court fines were F$92,542 and traffic court fines were just under F$46,000.
City government’s net position of governmental activities as of June 2014 was F$1.2 billion, an increase of F$60.8 million, or 5.5 percent. Business-type activities’ ending net position was F$606.6 million, an increase of F$42.5 million, or 7.5 percent.
Beyond just teaching the people their place, the court system is a money machine for governmental entities and a feeder mechanism for for-profit jails and the state’s prison system. The county’s criminal courts cost F$4.18 million to operate but have revenues of F$2.7 million (County CAFR, Page x).
City and county report financial amounts in Federal Reserve System dollars, though Article 1, Section 10, of the U.S. constitution says no state (or any agency thereof) shall “make any thing but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts.”
County law enforcement
Policing is a distinct function of the modern state, serving municipal corporations and their executive branches. In contrast, sheriff’s departments have their feet in constitutional authority and ancient principles of self-government and local protection. Still, they are law enforcers for the modern state — one foot in the old order, yes, and one in the new. The sheriff’s department of 387 people is overseen by Jim Hammond and costs the county F$29.9 million to run (County CAFR, Page A-2, Chattanooga Times Free Press, Jan. 13, 2015).
In 2014 the sheriff’s department made 6,175 arrests, down sharply from 8,080 in 2013, 7,865 in 2012 and 8,016 in 2011.
The city operates a fire and police defined benefit pension with liabilities at F$129.1 million (Page A-5). The fire and police pension fund has investments worth F$236.1 million, its largest cash amount invested in the financialized sector of the U.S. economy — hedge funds (F$603.3 million) (Page A-26).
Comprehensive annual financial report, Hamilton County Tennessee, 2014
Comprehensive annual financial report, City of Chattanooga, 2014