Police union's scare tactics FOP's radio ad insults taxpayer intelligence.

April 12, 1996

LODGE 70 of the Fraternal Order of Police ought to demand its money back from the New York advertising agency that created the radio advertisement now playing on a number of area stations. Intended to generate a groundswell of support for generous police pay raises, the effect may be just the opposite.

Anne Arundel County taxpayers may feel that any union foolish enough to pay for such an ill-conceived ad deserves a pay cut rather than a raise. A narrator tells listeners that the pay issue "is about public safety. Your safety. Maybe even your life."

What sheer nonsense. Police pay has zero correlation to the incidence of crime. Empirical evidence actually indicates the opposite. Baltimore police, for example, are better paid today than 20 years ago, yet the city's crime rate is much greater.

As for Anne Arundel, its crime rate is lower now than in the recent past -- not climbing, as the radio spot suggests.

State police statistics show that between 1989 and 1994, the county's crime rate dropped by nearly 4 percent. There are fewer murders per capita than 20 years ago, fewer breaking and enterings, fewer car thefts and robberies. Rape and larceny, indeed, have increased during the past two decades. But to suggest the county faces a crime wave that only a police pay raise can abort is to distort reality.

Adding to the public safety budget to put more police on the streets may reduce the crime rate, but merely increasing the amount of pay for those already on the payroll will have no effect on criminal activity. The ad accuses County Executive John G. Gary of "undermining public safety," yet he added 24 officers to the county force last year.

By pulling this ad, the FOP would be doing its 700 members a favor. The campaign is likely only to undermine support, at a time when there's precious little of it for more public spending. The county police union also continues to equate apples with oranges, sizing up law enforcement in Anne Arundel with more urban counties such as Prince George's and Baltimore. If the FOP feels a need to win over public support, fine, but fear-mongering is a vicious weapon to employ. The longer this ad runs, the less credible the union will appear.

Pub Date: 4/12/96

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