Discover more from Salem-Keizer Proletariat
Salem Police tax hike doesn’t add up (literally)
More public funding…for jobs they can’t fill…to address crimes already declining?
Usually when you ask a cash-strapped city to dig deeper into public funds, you come with an airtight proposal - your “A” game, so to speak. At the very worst, you use the data & resources available to scrape together the best argument you can.
Salem Police are asking elected officials to raise taxes to hire 15 more police officers.
Salem-Keizer Proletariat is entirely reader-supported. Local news has been defunded. This is progressive journalism to help fill the void. To receive new posts & support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
The only problem is, the city is pretty broke. Actually…wait, that’s not the only problem.
Because the city is budget-strapped, the plan would be to levy additional taxes on Salem’s working class to pay for new cops. And I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I don’t know many people who can afford a smaller paycheck and higher taxes.
So, if Salem PD is asking workers to pony up, you’d figure they must have an amazing reason, right? Right? They couldn’t possibly step up to the plate with some flimsy bullshit…right? Surely, they brought their A-game.
Thanks to reporting from Abbey McDonald with the Salem Reporter, we know they didn’t. Not even close.
More officers to address property crime…which has been steadily declining for years?
According to reporting in the Salem Reporter, Salem Police Chief Trevor Womack explained the added tax burden of 15 new officer positions as putting “more police in neighborhoods where they can address theft and get to know residents and business owners.”
Except theft - all property crime - in Salem has been in steady decline for years. Here’s data directly from the Salem Police Department:
Doesn’t that seem weird? To use a declining crime trend to justify hiring MORE police? Like, I just want to make sure I’m not the only one who smells it.
Anyway, in the Salem Reporter article Womack also explains that increases in violent crimes - crimes that are typically far more resource-heavy - put stress on his overall staffing levels. And, sure, the data bears that out:
But if more resources are being diverted to violent crime response as those incidents increase in number and frequency…why is the increase in headcount requested for:
A declining crime trend, and
A sort of community liaison presence in the business community
From Salem Reporter:
Police Chief Trevor Womack is seeking to expand the budget and employ even more officers, part of a longer-term plan to place new community engagement teams throughout the city who would get to know neighborhoods beyond short-term call response.”
That’s not to suggest that work isn’t meaningful or even effective - but it sure feels a lot like deliberately missing the target in terms of resource allocation.
And why are we creating more positions for Salem PD when they can’t fill the 22 open positions they have?
Mcdonald’s work in the Salem Reporter also showed us that Salem Police already has 22 positions open they are unable to fill. Not only that, the police budget and costs are growing far faster than the population of Salem is growing in population. From the article:
The request comes as the Salem Police Department can’t hire enough officers with the money it already has. As of May 10, the agency had 22 open jobs for sworn officers, including nine positions added in recent years to improve patrol coverage in the city…
…If fulfilled, his latest request to city leaders would continue a pattern of ever-increasing city spending on police protection.
Between 2012 and 2022, the population of Salem increased by 14%, while the department’s general fund costs increased by 53%, from $32.96 million to $50.48 million. In 2022, the department employed 249 people.
If Salem’s elected officials agree to these new positions, and the taxes on workers that will fund them, that will bring us to 37 open positions with the Salem Police Department.
Now, add to this the fact that public funds going to power Salem PD have increased MORE THAN 50% while the population has grown only 14%.
Nearly 40 unfilled positions. Huge decreases in efficiency of resources. Let’s be honest, if this were a regular business, you’d have trouble seeing the forest for the red flags.
The good news! If you live or work in Salem and this doesn’t sit right with you, there’s something you can do!
First of all, the issue and the request for the 15 additional officers is waaaaay more complex and nuanced than how I’m describing it. Start by reading the Salem Reporter referenced throughout and linked again here. It’s a well-written piece that includes a lot of really helpful history and background.
Second, it appears there are a number of opportunities to follow this request, and to provide input on the idea. Again, from Salem Reporter:
The city’s budget committee meets Wednesday, May 10, to continue to discuss the proposed budget, which includes funding for three additional positions. The meeting will be in-person at 6 p.m. in the council chambers, 555 Liberty St. S.E. and streamed on Capital Community Media’s YouTube channel in English and Spanish.
The committee will likely meet again on May 17 before sending a recommendation to the city council, who have a May 15 work session on the topic and will hold a public meeting about the budget on June 12.
Lastly, if you plan on providing input about this flimsy request for more police in Salem - consider also reminding elected officials that actual community police oversight in Salem exists in name only. The group selected to keep police accountable to community hasn’t even seen a case to investigate in years and years.
If elected officials in Salem are determined to keep expanding the budget footprint of the Salem Police Department, at least give the folks footing the bill a shot at accountability!
Seems reasonable. I mean, it’s not Salem PD quality “lol we need more money again, sorry thnx!” But reasonable, nonetheless.