Money and people

Before we get to the crux of the matter, we want to take a minute and go over newspaper policy. We don’t, as we’ve made clear in this space in the past, support, or for that matter oppose, a given political candidate. We have a lot of reasons for being this way, but, rather than bore you with a long story, candidate support just isn’t something we do because it might be seen to impact our reporting in the future.

But opinions on policy, how to do things, we are prepared to use this page - the opinion page of the newspaper - to do that. We’ve done it in the past and we’ll do it again, little doubt, in the future.

Fees, processes, whatever, we have opinions on these things and share them. We spend a lot of time in the trenches and see what happens when sound policy is or isn’t enacted. And certainly we’re professional enough not to let that get in the way of our reporting.

Okay, enough about the rules.

Our position: Using law enforcement as a means to generate revenue, or judging law enforcement’s activities by revenue realized, is a terrible idea and should never take place.

At the center of doing so, of using revenue as a measure of performance, is the possibility for corruption, ultimately, of the law enforcement and its duty. Its duty, sworn to by those so engaged, is to protect and serve. They protect and serve our community; they protect and serve our constitution; they protect and serve us. And by that, what could be worse, what could get more in the way of that duty, than a given officer looking at events unfolding and be expected to act with financial interest above all? Is that not what would create a delayed response when you hear a noise out the back door while a ticket’s written out on 65? Is that not the way life is in third-world banana republics, where you slip the cop a $20 to get priority handling? Where the sheriff attends to Boss Hogg’s every whim?

Which is to say corruption’s pernicious influence has a way of trickling down. So no, the corruption of purpose as comes from “good job equals more money” math doesn’t just end at the policy level. Policy, end of the day, is enacted by people and those people in turn get sucked into the equation - and you’re left sitting with a phone receiver in one hand, shotgun in the other, wondering what is that out in the yard while some tourist gets a ticket for a license plate light. And then you’re communicating to the cop how money’s more important than service, more important than protection and what does that do - what could that possibly do - to the vision of a law enforcement professional?

Now, let’s be clear. This isn’t a call for unfettered regard. We should, of course, measure performance. We all have that at our jobs and in this case the protecting and serving is done by public servants. In this case number of arrests, the crimes being interfered with, all this matters and should be reported, studied and efficiency considered. Is the job being done well and could it be done better comes out of these calculations. Law enforcement works on the government dollar and for that deserves, must have, oversight.

But that oversight should never be dollars gained or lost. That is a terrible idea, and one fraught with peril.

Luke 14:28-30 (NIV)

28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’