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Police You Can Count On

Posted by on October 7, 2008

[This post was originally written for my employer’s blog, Show-Me Daily.]

The Post-Dispatch reports that St. Louis has a new police chief. My favorite part of the article:

[New chief Daniel] Isom said he will take a more modern approach by decentralizing the decision-making.

“I want to push resources down to the district level in the neighborhoods, so officers can rapidly respond to crime,” he explained.

I was pleasantly surprised by this. All too often, governments speak of the strength and reliability of centralization, while nearly the whole history of free-market economic thought touts the benefits of individual-level decision making. In particular, this reminds me of the argument for law enforcement decentralization put forth by David Friedman in chapter 17 of this month’s Show-Me Institute book club selection. Friedman makes the case that centralized police forces tend to invest more of their resources protecting the wealthy, causing the poor to feel powerless against crime and, indeed, infractions by the police themselves.

Delegation of authority to local levels should result in, at the very least, increased accountability. I look forward to observing the effectiveness of Isom’s implementation, and, more importantly, his administration’s results.

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