Here at Not the Bee, you might have picked up on the fact that we're not exactly a "defund-the-police" sort of outlet. To put it lightly.
But there are some cases where even a little defunding wouldn't hurt. Case in point:
Months of research and dozens of interviews by AL.com found that [Brookside, Alabama's] finances are rocket-fueled by tickets and aggressive policing. In a two-year period between 2018 and 2020 Brookside revenues from fines and forfeitures soared more than 640 percent and now make up half the city's total income.
And the police chief has called for more.
That's right. The police chief wants more.
Let's take a look at the energetic shenanigans at which the Brookside Police Department has been up to.
By 2020 Brookside made more misdemeanor arrests than it has residents. It went from towing 50 vehicles in 2018 to 789 in 2020 – each carrying fines. That's a 1,478% increase, with 1.7 tows for every household in town.
Think of it for a second, folks: If you bed down in Brookside, Alabama, you were likely to have your car towed twice in 2020. That's nuts! Many of us haven't had our cars towed twice during our entire driving careers.
Police stops soared between 2018 and 2020. Fines and forfeitures – seizures of cars during traffic stops, among other things – doubled from 2018 to 2019. In 2020 they came to $610,000. That's 49% of the small town's skyrocketing revenue.
Think about that figure for a second: $610,000. That's not even a drop in the bucket compared to big-city municipal budgets. But it constituted half of the city's entire take in 2020.
That's insane. For comparison, that would be roughly commensurate to the New York City Police Department pulling down $50 billion in fines and forfeitures for the city this year.
A department of nine officers in a 1,253-person town is far larger than average. Across the country, the average size of a force is one officer for every 588 residents, according to a Governing Magazine study that examined federal statistics.
Last year, based on Jones' testimony, Brookside had at least one officer for every 144 residents...
Then this month the Brookside department posted on Facebook that it had hired six more officers "in an effort to expand our dedication and commitment to provide superior community service & protection."
Doing some quick math here:
If Brookside now has 15 police officers in a town of 1,253, that means its officer-to-citizen ratio is about one to 83—a ratio, if I'm not mistaken, seven times higher than the national average.
With all this in mind, Brookside's residents could be forgiven for having a slightly negative reaction every time the police are mentioned: