Everyone in this year’s Mayor’s race has talked about increasing the number of police officers should they win. But what if no one wants the job?
For most of this Mayoral election cycle, the big topic, whether we want it to be or not, has been crime and policing.
Most of the mayoral candidates have said that they want to increase the number of folks policing the city’s streets. They talk about recruiting, places they want to recruit, and incentives that they want to give these recruits to take these jobs.
But what if no incentive is enough to get recruits to sign on the dotted line?
I thought about this as I watched news coverage of the two prisoners who broke out of the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center on Monday (or late Sunday afternoon. Depends on whom you talk to.) Apparently, the escapees, one of whom, Nasir Grant, 24, was captured on Thursday night, were able to build a tunnel, cut through a hole in an unguarded part of the prison fence, and try to get home for Mother’s Day.
(The other fugitive, 18-year-Ameen Hurst, is still on the loose. Because he’s a suspect in four murders, including one that happened just outside of the Correctional Center, I’d leave him alone if you see him.)
Prior to the breakout, I got a press release in my inbox from AFSCME Local 159, the Corrections Officers Union, which spoke to a no-confidence vote that they took against Department of Prisons Commissioner Blanche Carney. Among the complaints they had about Carney’s leadership were her lack of support for the corrections staff, her failure to improve health and safety conditions in the prisons, her inability to work cooperatively with the union and her inability to address the staffing crisis.
Now, I don’t know enough about Philadelphia’s prison system to know exactly what’s going on there, so I asked my older brother Jack, who worked for Delaware’s Bureau of Prisons for more than 30 years.
While he couldn’t speak to Philadelphia’s system, he was able to tell me that staffing was top of mind for the folks he used to work for.
And I don’t think that Delaware pays as well as Philadelphia in that regard.
What folks need to understand is that there are a lot of roadblocks in terms of getting people who consider law enforcement of any kind as a career. A lot of folks don’t want to do it once they realize that the things that cops get away with on television would get them locked up in real life. And when it comes to corrections, if you’ve watched one episode of “Lockdown” on MSNBC, and you’ve seen a corrections officer get a wad of someone’s human waste thrown at them, you’re definitely going to reconsider that as a career option.
So, as the Primary election season thankfully comes to close, you might want to ask those candidates that are going to be invading your neighborhoods this weekend what they’re going to do to address the fact that there might not be enough money in the City budget to get the number of law enforcement professionals you’re promising into the city’s employ.
Don’t forget to vote on Tuesday. And while you’re reading this, check out the Hall Monitor page featuring the interviews that Larry McGlynn and I did on poverty, and what some of the current and former candidates said they’d do about it if elected. It’s pretty informative.