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The perennial argument about the size of the police force has come up again.

This go-around, it is about making it bigger, rather than smaller.

At a meeting of the Taxation, Revenue, and Utilization of Expenditures (TRUE) Commission Oct. 7, there was a discussion of adding officers to the force.

 The typical argument is that Jacksonville should have the same number of police per resident as other police departments in Florida.

That argument was made again. But it is not a sound argument.

Since consolidation in 1968, the argument has been confused by the fact that Jacksonville is both a city and a county.

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams told the TRUE Commission that the investigations and patrol divisions have 1,827 officers currently working.  Jacksonville’s city budget provides for 1,854 officers in the two divisions.

The state average per 1,000 for police departments is 2.36 and 1.70 for sheriff’s offices, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

The 2020 Census reports the population for Duval County is 995,568.  Excluding the Beaches, it is 941,568 for the core city of Jacksonville. 

Using that average, Jacksonville should have the equivalent of 2,223 officers in the two core departments, proponents say.  That suggests a deficiency in personnel of 369 positions. Some have proposed adding 119 positions per year to close the alleged gap and provide for growth.

The fallacy is calculating the need based on an urban police department. There are more pine trees than people in Jacksonville.

At the rate of 1.7 officers for sheriff’s offices, Jacksonville has more than needed.

Eye on Jacksonville took a different approach. We looked at the total number of police and deputies in each county, using FDLE numbers.

By that ranking, Jacksonville has 2.82 cops per 1,000 residents and that puts it right in the middle of Florida counties.

The range is from 1.50 in Citrus County to 7.40 in Glades County.

Jacksonville has about the same ratio of cops (and correctional officers) to residents as Dade, Broward and Pinellas counties.

The real question is whether it matters. There is no evidence that the number of cops on the street affects the crime rate much, although more cops might reduce wait times for service.

Eye has opposed reducing the size of the force as liberals have demanded. But there isn’t much of an argument in favor of increasing the size either.

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Lloyd was born in Jacksonville. Graduated from the University of North Florida. He spent nearly 50 years of his life in the newspaper business …beginning as a copy boy and retiring as editorial page editor for Florida Times Union. He has also been published in a number of national newspapers and magazines, as well as Internet sites. Married with children. Military Vet. Retired. Man of few words but the words are researched well, deeply considered and thoughtfully written.

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