The Impact of the Recession on Law Enforcement

 I.  Law Enforcement in the US There are three components that make the US criminal justice system and one of them is law enforcement, while the other two are the judiciary system and correction centers.  These three components have an inherent interrelation, although each one them is independent of the other when it comes to implementing what each section is in charge of doing, while to some extent the judiciary could dictate the other two components on how they can manage their day-to-day operations and responsibilities.

In light of that, the law enforcement section alone that is the focus of this research has various functions to oversee other than maintaining law and order, which is it primary duty.  The law enforcement section that is responsible for policing has a duty of investigating suspected criminal activities and it forwards its findings to the court system.   Furthermore, the law enforcement section is also responsible for deterring criminal activities that are in progress, while it is also in charge of enforcing warrants, writs, and any other order that originates from the courts.

The same law enforcement section is also in charge of responding to emergencies or threats to any member of the society, in addition to similar responsibilities such as protecting and conducting surveillance of public facilities, as well as infrastructures, overseeing the prevalence of public order, protecting those in charge of the public domain that could include the overseeing of correctional facilities on a temporary basis since there are jails at most police stations.

Based on such facts what this paper will try to highlight is how the current economic fallout or recession is affecting the various programs the law enforcement arm of the judiciary system is in charge of.  Consequently, the main purpose of the paper will be once the effect of the current recession on what the force is doing had been analyzed and highlighted, based on the findings the paper will suggest which of the programs should remain active and which ones should be cancelled.

II.  The Current Problem When examining law enforcement, its versatile nature might make it difficult to single out and highlight every single task such a given force is accomplishing because it could vary from one incident to the other and the inherent nature of the various tasks the force accomplishes could be vast.  A given law enforcement force could be reactive, coactive, and proactive while executing its duty making it very difficult to say which area of the various responsibilities is more important than the others (BNET, 2009).

When force members are reactive they have to be very visible and involved where force members in uniform will be patrolling streets, neighborhoods, facilities etc., while plain cloth detectives from the same force could be investigating crimes that involve a host of activities that are difficult to list since they vary according to individual cases. There could also be specialists in the force that have varied responsibilities since many criminal scenes require a scientific and forensic analysis to arrive at the main cause behind the incidents (Reiss, 1992).

When the same force members are coactive they will engage in neighborhood watch programs or they will participate in community centers, schools, or business centers engage in educating the participants because it had been witnessed that some workplaces need to be educated on how to run violence-free workplace, while various sources have to be taught how to prevent vandalism, theft, robbery etc.  There are also programs such as crime stoppers that involve ordinary citizens who will work with law enforcement agencies and their various staff.

Those members who are proactive are engaged in taking surveys so that the force will get adequate feed back on how what it is accomplishing affects community members and find out if they require more.  It is also possible for the proactive members to engage into directly educating young people on how to use programs such the Internet without exposing themselves to any danger that could be lurking and they could even go as far as educating the students about what kind of positive and safe dating procedure to employ in their relationship, showing that it is not easy to summarize what takes place in the life of the members of the workforce, since it vary from one case to the other greatly.

Force members have also to stay ahead of the new high tech introductions, especially those that are vulnerable for manipulation where criminals will not hesitate to commit heinous crimes using them.  The members of a local law enforcement office can conduct community meetings, citizen academies, hold various kinds of seminars, and introduce public classes wherever they can get facility about the kinds of services they can avail to the community.  They can also dispense printed material, appear on local TV shows and talk show radio programs and talk about issues that are akin to the various community groups and the force members can work together either to solve existing problems or prevent problems from occurring (National Crime Prevention Council).

The possibilities are unlimited when considering the kind of channels that are available for such community fairs where the force members could engage in educational sessions or they can have an arms length relationship with the members of a given community by printing newsletters.  It is also possible that they could get partners in such endeavors such as members of the public affair department, various specialists who could have a vested interest in what they would accomplish, the media, community groups, businesses, service providers or community clubs that could facilitate what they are doing as patrons.

The problem here is the law enforcement department has its own budget that it has to utilize efficiently if it wants to accomplish most of the things it wants to do, although there will always be some kind of constraint on the available resources.  The situation could deteriorate when times are bad, as they are currently because of the recession, where it is possible that some of the partnership they were getting could disappear because those who are availing some of the external resources might find it difficult to do so because of being affected by the recession (Worrall and Kovandzic, 2007).

Or the overall budget the law enforcement department will be getting could be affected because of some cutback or austerity program introduced by the government similar to what the President Obama government had introduced at the beginning of the year where all public spending will freeze where they are, because the resources are not there since the government is financing all public programs by employing a ballooning budget deficit that is expected to surpass $1 trillion in 2010.  Based on such assumptions the paper first will find out what kind of resources the force is losing and if there are any how are they affecting the service it is planning to avail.

III.  Factors Bearing on the Problem The major factor that could hamper the law enforcement section of the judiciary system from carrying out its duty effectively might be the economic fallout that had started in 2007 when a financial crises occurred because of lack of liquidity problem that affected the US banking system.

The outcome of the crisis had led to the collapse of large-cap financial institutions where the government of the day had to come up with various bailouts in order to avoid a total collapse of the banking sector.  In spite of the bailouts, it was not possible to avoid stock market down turns, not only in the US, but around the world where various governments had also come up with their own bailout to stimulate the faltering banking sectors globally.  The outcome of the financial crisis had ushered in a recession some economist are comparing to the Great Depression, while others are claiming there had never been a recession that has such a magnitude since the 1930s Great Depression (BusinessWire, 2009).

The non-relenting recession had caused various economic damages such as the housing market in the US and elsewhere had suffered a meltdown to the point where there were many evictions, foreclosures, and many properties had difficulty-finding tenants.  Key businesses had also failed, whereas consumers had also seen their wealth melting causing damages estimated in the trillions of dollars.  The government had found it difficult to keep some of its commitments that could affect essential programs such as law enforcement in the long-run, while at the same time a significant decline in the economy had been reported.

The overall outcome of the recession had been banks had suffered solvency problem ameliorated only by the intervention of the government where some of them are making profit again.  The credit availability problem is also getting better, although it is not yet, where everyone wants it.  The other outcome that is not easy to reverse is the security market had suffered large losses in 2008 and 2009 that it cannot recover.  Whatever the main culprit had been, as there are various source that are claiming if there is anyone that takes the blame it is the rating agencies whose job was forecasting the involved risk with a better accuracy than they were able to employ.

Some critics are blaming governments because all level of governments had failed to come up with regulatory practices to deal with problems the advanced financial markets had introduced. Instead, all they were able to come up with was fiscal stimulants, monetary policy and at the end, when what they introduced did not work they resorted to bailouts

The financial crisis that ushered in the recession is believed to affect many areas that includes the federal government budget that is dependant on the tax revenue the government will generate in a given year that in its turn is dependant on how that tax payers are faring. That could be judged from the output of goods and services in the US that had declined at an annual rate of 6% in the year 2008 and 2009 leading to unprecedented 10.1% of unemployment recorded in October 2009 deemed to be the highest rate since the year 1983.

At the same time the work week hour had come down to 33 hours affecting the overall income generating capability of the tax payers indicating how the recession had been severe as such figure is the lowest level since the government started collecting such data in 1964.  The same had been applicable globally where the EU countries managed only 1% GDP Growth.  This does not mean the future outlook will remain bleak because findings indicate that conditions in the financial market had shown positive improvements, although household spending had not recovered because of lower household wealth and the lack of the availability of credits.

The same applies to business that are not investing in fixed assets and had curtailed their hiring although the sales figure they are showing is improving.  The future looks brighter because of policy actions to stabilize the equity market and how various institutions are running their business.  The expectation is there are factors such as fiscal and monetary stimulants and other market forces that will introduce economic growth that will usher in price stability.  Based on that the assumption is GDP could grow by 2-3% by 2010, the unemployment could come down to 10%, while it is possible to tame inflation back to 1-2%.

Based on such positive outlook another factor to look at is how the recession is affecting the government that is the main source of the money for almost all governmental agencies that includes the judiciary system.  In the State of the Union address the President has demanded a three-year freeze that starts from 2011 on most popular government spending excluding national security and public insurance programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, but there is no direct deduction directed at any governmental agency other than Boarder Securities (MSNBC, 2010).

However, all other discretionary government programs that would require more budget would feel the effect and law enforcement is in the list.  In spite of the introduction of such austerity programs the President has allocated some $30 billion bailout money repaid by some banks to be diverted to smaller banks so that they will be in a position to avail more credit to those who want to start small business.

When looking at the mandatory spending that stood at $2.184 trillion the department of justice had received a$26.5 billion budget that is higher from the previous year where in 2009 it was at $25.5 billion and in 2008 it was at $23.6 billion.  From the budget, law enforcement through FBI will get $8 billion while there is a plan to hire 50,000 police force total cost not included in 2010 budget.  There is another $145 million funding to combat discrimination that emanates from racial, ethnic, sexual preference, gender related, and that has religious orientation.

The US Department of Justice breaks down the budget more clearly showing that there is a $117.3 million allocated to maintain programs that are running currently whereas there is $1.94 billion to enhance some of the current programs.  Among the top five programs at the department of law enforcement the largest is at $12,687 billion and that was up from where it was at $11,763 in the previous year (DOJ, 2010, Overview)

IV.  Discussion As seen from the figures provided by the ministry of justice the current economic problem that ushered in a recession that started around 2007 has not affected per se what the law enforcement had been doing, because the amount of money the law enforcement section received had not gone down to any significant level affecting its performance according to what Garoupa (1997) had outlined.

However, because there is going to be a spending freeze starting 2011 if there is a need for more spending on new programs such plans have to be postponed until the freeze is lifted that might take at least three years.  In order to further examine if the current economic fallout had affected law enforcement there is a need to see how the department is carrying out its day to day responsibilities and what areas are its main focuses.

The department claims that more than anything else it wants to meet its long-term performance goals.  In order to accomplish that there are particular sectors the force concentrates its efforts on such as drug trafficking.  It also pays more attention to outcomes it attains by using the litigation process effectively, because it believes that the only time the public will get protection is when justice is served.

Based on that the law enforcement division has a number of strategic goals that it wants to put to work. Examining those goals and what kind of resources are allocated to each of them might reveal if there is any kind of possibility to prioritize which of this strategic goals require more resources, because they are effective to accomplish a certain goal or it is also possible to examine if there are strategic goals that might be better off if they are scrapped by freeing the resources that go into them so that they will be utilized for other purposes (Kelling and Wycoff, 2002).

The major strategy of the law enforcement that is strategic goal number one had become preventing terrorism and promotes the nation’s security.  In that area alone for the three years starting from 2008 up to the current year 2010, the level of terrorist activity committed by foreign and domestic terrorism groups according to the FBI is non-existent showing that the law enforcement effort had eliminated such fears to the point where there was not even a single such incident reported.  When looking at strategic goal two and three it might be helpful to look at a table from the DOJ that shows clearly what the force had accomplished.

Strategic goal 2: Ensure the fair and efficient administration of justice

 2008 2009 target  2010 Organized criminals enterprises dismantled 38 36 36 Children depicted into pornography and rescued 187 150 150 Firearms investigation sent to court 47% 59% 60% Disrupted drug activities 299 263 300 Dismantled drug activities 104 137 160 High impact internet fraud targets neutralized 11 12 13 White collar crime dismantled 211 160 160 Children recovered 72 hours after amber alert 82% 75% 75% Percentage of criminal cases favorably resolved 92% 90% 90% Percentage of civil cases favorably resolved 79% 80% 80% Percentage of assets /funds returned to creditors chapter 7 60% 58% 58% Percentage of assets/funds returned to creditors chapter 13 84.20% 86% 86% Homicides per site 3.7 Strategic goal 3: Ensure the fair and efficient administration of justice Number of participants in residential substance abuse treatment 20,000 20,000 Graduation rate of program participants in drug culture program 63.20% 69% 71% Ensuring judicial proceeding are not interrupted due to lack of security 1 zero zero Total primary fugitives apprehended or cleared Number 34,393 33,000 34,000 Percentage 55% 55% 55% Per day jail cost $67.66 $68.73 $67.40 Percent of system-wide crowding in federal prison 36% 37% 37% Escapes from secure BOP facilities Zero zero zero Recidivism 3 years 34% 15% 15% 6 years 42% 10% 10% Assault rate in federal prison 12/5,000 15/5,000 15/5,000 Inspection results at correctional association 100% 99% 99% Source: www.justice.gov/jmd/2010summary/pdf/doj-bud-summary.pdf

The table adopted from DOJ website clearly shows the major activities of the law enforcement division that has certain amount of money earmarked to it.  Based on the tables the strategic goal number one alone that is working to prevent any kind of terrorism act from taking place in the continental US, where the main aim is at preventing and deterring such incidents from occurring, the budget for such sector alone in 2010 was $5.4 billion that was $589 million more than the 2009 level and that money had been made available highlighting the fact that the recession has not yet deterred what the force had been accomplishing albeit that the freeze would prevent it from introducing new programs.

Strategic goal number two is also the same where the main drive of the force is enforcing vigorously the federal laws in order to stifle all known criminal activities such as violent crime of any genre, crimes related to various kinds of weapons, drug trafficking, crimes committed by white collar workers, the main drive being the American people will continue to enjoy their civil and constitutional rights without any disruption.

To put this plan to work what is needed for 2010 is $14.7 billion that was an increase of $173 million from the previous year and the force has that budget at its disposal to do whatever is necessary showing that the force was not forced to curtail some of its programs because of lack of funds, although it could find it difficult to come up with new programs because of the spending freeze that will be effective for three years starting 2011 (DOJ, 2010, Strategy).

The third strategic goal that ensures there will be fair and efficient administration of justice looks at the responsibility of the force in protecting judges, witnesses, and the overall participants in the court system at one level or another.  The third strategic goal goes as far as ensuring those who are running from the law are hunted down, those who are either defendants or those convicted for any kind of wrongdoing would also require staying in efficient and safe facility and it is from the same budget money will be allocated for this project and all the other above mentioned expenses.

After the inmates have served their time, there is a need to integrate them into society that involves a considerable cost.  The cost of all what project three requires had been estimated to be $9.5 billion that was more by $358 million from the previous year budget and the force has this money included in its 2010 budget again showing that the economic fallout had not affected what it had intended to accomplish except in this area too, it cannot come up with new programs for the following three years until the spending freeze is lifted.

The major problem almost all governmental agencies would face is that since the deficit level is poised to surpass $1 trillion for the year 2010 and could remain at that level for the coming three years. The deficit is the outcome of the dwindled revenue of the government and the extraordinary costs it had to incur. If any of the agencies has plans to introduce new programs, they have no better choice other than to put them on hold.

This reveals that till now, as seen from the budget expended for these agencies there had not been a cut with few exceptions where border security would suffer a budget cut for the year 2011 that will affect boarder patrols and the planned virtual fence between the US and Mexico boarder (Law Enforcement Examiner, 2010).  Therefore, what is required of the force is to freeze the introduction of any new programs for the next year showing that the need to cut programs at least for the year 2010 is not there (Benson et al, 1994).

V.  Recommendation Based on the above findings, at least for the remaining of 2010 there is no need to cut  programs, while at the same time it is not possible to introduce new programs.  For the years that will start after 2011, because of the introduced freeze on spending it is difficult to say what will happen although the 2011 budget will allow more room since it is going to be $29.2 billion, much higher than the $26 billion budget of 2010.  However, with the budget there are certain recommendations that will be the main areas of focus such as 50,000 additional police officers will be hired nationwide that has already a $600 million spending earmarked to it, as well as it is the President’s multi-year commitment to raise the size of the force.

Other areas slated as key to the future are combating financial frauds and protecting the interest of the investors for the obvious reason of making them continue to invest that is crucial for the liquidity of the market.  This is an area the department is planning to pay more attention to.  One particular area highlighted related to financial fraud is the health care system where already there is a task force called Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Team that is out to combat fraud originating from the health care section, where more funding will be required to have more FBI agents and DOJ attorneys to look into the matter more closely.

There is also a need to expand targeted and place-based enforcement believed to bring down the occurrences of violent crimes among the youth and gang members where there is already some money allocated to it that includes the Community Based Violence Prevention Initiatives that had been trying to reduce number of guns on the street and other violence among the youth in major metropolitan regions and this effort could require more reinvigorating.

There is also a similar program called Attorney General’s Children Exposed to Violence Initiative formed to reach out for youth most affected with such problems with the belief that if dealt properly, the youth will not propagate such a life style as they grow.  Another program that could require more funding is the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program that is aiming to bolster interagency initiative aimed at reinvigorating various neighborhoods.

The department is also planning to combat violence against women by availing more fund that approaches $538 million believed to be an increase of  29% and will cover areas such as domestic abuse and sexual assault cases The reason why this area is important is statistics shows there are at least half a million women who had been suffering from violence directed at them from an intimate partner, while there are many others victimized by sources they do not know showing that this area requires more revamping.

Among the recommendations reinvigorating the federal civil right is also part and would require special attention.  Areas of focus are racial, ethnic, sexuality, religious, and gender where there could be discrimination taking place.  There is already a division DOJ’s Civil Rights Division that has adequate fund and it could require more based on what it can accomplish in the area of hate crime.

There is a particular program already in place that will integrate inmates who have served their time and this program should also require enhancing since the inmates require more support.  Other areas that require more attention are the targeting and stifling of criminal activities deemed to be violent and asserting the nation borders are secure in spite of the fact the boarder security has suffered a cut.  Agencies such as the FBI and others at similar capacity that are responsible for national security and intelligence require more attention and fund to enable them do their job effectively and more funds should be directed to such departments by diverting funds from areas that are coactive in nature.

Accordingly, there could be communities that require more vigorous prosecution and grant assistance that might require close scrutiny and once they are spotted, there might be a dire need to divert some resources from areas that are mostly serving informational and educational purposes.

Fighting the nation’s drug problem also has to be a the top of the list where there should be a need to fight the problem by targeting the cartels and organized criminal enterprises that are responsible for drug trafficking.  There is already a task force called Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force that can use more reinvigorating because it works with both FBI agents and attorneys to target and weaken the illegal organizations that are responsible for drug trafficking and other criminal activities.

There is also an enforcement agency called Administration’s El Paso Intelligence Center whose main responsibility is to share intelligence and engages in equipping agents to effectively target and dismantle the drug trafficking cartels, as well as organizations deemed to have anything to do with drug trafficking that requires revamping because of its vital inputs.  The overall activities of these legal bodies encompass a very vital area in fighting drug trafficking where law enforcement officers work hand in hand with legal professionals to arrest, detain, prosecute, and bring suspects and aliens to court (DOJ, 2007) (DOJ, 2010, Summary).

VI.  Conclusion

The conclusion is if there is a need to introduce change, especially in areas such as law enforcement there is a cost involved that requires funding.  The various law enforcement departments get direct funding from the Department of Justice as one of the components of the agency, the other two being the judiciary and the correction systems that require less funding because what they are accomplishing requires less fund.  The source of any fund that the law enforcement can put to work in order to do its job effectively comes from the federal government in a form of an annual budget that amounts to $2.1 trillion and from that amount the Department of Justice gets around $26 billion that it disperses among its three main components.

The amount DOJ had been receiving had not gone down when compared to the previous three or four years indicating that although it is possible to shift funds among programs deemed to be more crucial, there had not been a need to curtail, cut, or cancel existing programs.  However, according to the prevalent need some programs could become more crucial because of certain events and that might require a special attention as mentioning terrorism as an example would suffice that had made it to the top of the crucial list from nowhere.

On the other hand, when looking at the source of the money the DOJ and its three departments are putting to work it comes from the federal government that is strapped for cash where the government deficit is surpassing $1 trillion showing that because of the recession had affected the nation’s productivity level by introducing various deterrents such as high unemployment that will affect directly the tax revenue of the government, while at the same time if there is low productivity everyone across the board will be affected.  When that is the case the main source of the government revenue, which is the private sector will also generate much less revenue for the government.

These kinds of scenarios had been made worse because of the unprecedented expenses the government was forced to incur in order to bail out faltering financial establishments that had forced the government to spend more than it generates in a form of revenue.  When that is the case the government has no choice other than borrowing the reason why the deficit had balloned where it is currently forcing the government to introduce an austerity program starting from the year 2011, where it has introduced a spending freeze that could last up to three years.

What this translates into is the various governmental departments will continue to get their proposed budget that had not gone down for the most part, as attested by how much DOJ will get for the year 2011 that will approach $29 billion, much higher than the 2010 budget.  It is difficult to say for how long will the government continue to do so, but based on past experience recessions, for the most part will be replaced by a boom in business activity where everyone will be in a position to recoup what they lost and those heavily indebted will be able to pay back their debt, because it had happened many times.

This means that the concern, at least for the foreseeable future is all governmental departments will get their budget that will enable them continue to do what they are doing, although they might not be able to introduce new programs without scrapping an existing one, an action that is dependant on the decision each department makes.  In the case of DOJ it can continue to do what it is doing through 2011 and if there is a need to focus on particular areas mentioned in the recommendation section, what it will take is shifting the available fund among programs believed to be more crucial showing that there is no signal from the government side that will indicate departments will have to introduce cuts.

Which would mean DOJ could implement the above recommendations in order to be effective in what it is doing, however, it does not have to cut programs as long it continues to receive its proposed budget from the government that always is increasing albeit in small margin.

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