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As I See It

Police costs growing significantly



As some call for the defunding of police in the wake of videos of police brutality, it is unclear just what that would look like. But one thing is for certain. Staffing a police force is an expensive venture, and getting more expensive. A report by the Wisconsin Policy Forum finds spending by Wisconsin cities and towns on police protection is rising, and taking up an increasingly large share of their budgets. Spending on police is typically the largest share of spending by municipalities. As recently as 1986, Wisconsin cities and towns spent a combined $353 million on law enforcement. That has risen to more than $1.3 billion, an increase of 262%. Spending on law enforcement in La Crosse now tops $11 million per year. If we are going to reconsider how we spend money to keep our communities safe, we should also ask how can we get more for less? Is a regional police force the answer, spreading the costs of law enforcement out amid more taxpayers as a way to reduce the costs for all? Is the money we now spend on police better spent on things like education and housing for those most likely to turn to a life of crime?  As we consider the proper role of police, we also need to figure out how to get the most bang for our buck.

Scott Robert Shaw serves as WIZM Program Director and News Director, and delivers the morning news on WKTY, Z-93 and 95.7 The Rock. Scott has been at Mid-West Family La Crosse since 1989, and authors Wisconsin's only daily radio editorial, "As I See It" heard on WIZM each weekday morning and afternoon.

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