I want to try a crowdsourcing experiment today.
Lisa Wangsness reports in the Boston Globe that law-enforcement officials, community activists and the like are trying to restore $11 million in funding for an antigang program that Gov. Deval Patrick proposes to eliminate so that he can pay for the first 250 of the 1,000 new police officers he promised during his campaign. State Sen. Jarrett Barrios, D-Cambridge, whose progressive credentials are unquestioned, discusses the issue on his blog.
So far, this sounds like a classic clash of priorities, with Patrick on what is arguably the wrong side. According to Barrios, the Charles Shannon Community Safety Initiative, as the antigang program is known, helps fund “community-based outreach programs, summer jobs programs, reentry programs, after-school programs and community policing initiatives targeting gangs and youth violence.” Yes, we all want more police officers, but we also know that a comprehensive approach to crime is the only thing that works in the long run.
But wait — this isn’t just a clash of priorities. According to this March 2 Globe story by Andrea Estes and Wangsness, the 250 new police officers are largely being funded by taking other money away from police departments. Here’s what they reported back then:
According to the administration, the money to hire the additional officers would come from a new $30 million account for local police. However, $20 million of that money would be taken from the police grant program, which is traditionally distributed to local police by the Legislature. And some of it is already used for hiring police officers, raising questions about whether the Patrick plan would actually add the number of officers that he asserts.
So what, precisely, is it that I want to try crowdsourcing? I want to know if this is as bad as it looks, or if there is some explanation. What Estes and Wangsness describe sounds like a grotesquely exploitative shell game. There’s got to be more to it than this. Patrick couldn’t be this cynical. Could he?
I’m not going to be chained to my laptop all day, but I’d like to post comments and links as I’m able. I’ll point to the most informative of them right here on the front page. At best, this could be an interesting exercise in group media criticism. At worst — hey, it’s still Friday.
Update: Maybe this is as bad as it looks. One Media Nation reader points to this March 11 Globe story on the $11 million cut. Here’s an excerpt:
“We were shocked,” said Emmett Folgert, describing reaction to Patrick’s elimination of the $11 million in antigang funding. The veteran director of the Dorchester Youth Collaborative, a Fields Corner outreach program, said the money not only helped Boston, which received $3 million, but began to seed new prevention efforts in New Bedford, Fall River, and other cities dealing with youth violence problems. “To abort these new programs that have already achieved success and community support is unthinkable,” said Folgert.
Another Media Nation reader wonders if Patrick is “desperate” rather than “cynical” — that is, he’s so intent on fulfilling his campaign promise to hire 1,000 new police officers that he’s doing more harm than good. An interesting theory.