Thursday, October 29, 2009

Tucson Prop. 200 is so bad that there's near unanimity.

It's very rare that there's as broad, across-the-political-spectrum agreement on an issue as there is on Tucson's Proposition 200, the sole initiative Tucsonans will see on next Tuesday's ballots. The Goldwater Institute, the 'Blog for Arizona guys, and everyone in between seem to agree: it's fiscally irresponsible, it's a growth subsidy, the policing mandates do not makes sense given that crime is plummeting, and its passage will necessitate major tax increases in the near future. The main opposition group's website, Don't Handcuff Tucson, has links to newspaper editorials and guest opinions in aggregate giving more than enough reason to vote "no".

This has been the most talked-about ballot question of the season, despite there being nearly nobody, except the three Republican candidates for City Council and the initial financial backers of the question, in favor. I've remained silent on it because I haven't had anything unique to say, until now. I'll add the following:

Police in Tucson are, relative to those of both the Pima County and Maricopa County Sheriff's Department, the ICE, and the Border Patrol, well-disciplined and courteous. They're not the best in the state--if you've even been pulled over in Graham County you'll understand what tough competition there is--but for an urban police department, they're doing fairly well. Incidents of brutality are few and things I'd expect to provoke misconduct in many other places--even killings of police officers--are handled here with professionalism.

Policing is a psychologically demanding job in two ways. First, it involves confrontation, including the prospect of physical confrontation. Second, as the famous Stanford Prison experiment and many more serious studies since then demonstrate, power can bring out very bad things in people. Tucson has done a good job of hiring people who can handle the stress and who can use the privileges granted police officers responsibly. Mandating that Tucson hire more police officers may mean a lowering of standards and the hiring of people who would otherwise have to be projected, especially if the city needs to grow its police force "on the cheap." Tucsonans, for safety's and dignity's sake, keep bad cops off the force by voting "no" on Prop. 200.

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