I live in Marion, a town of 5,000. Looking at the weekly police log, most activity is taken up by fire alarms, medical calls, building alarm checks, traffic stops, and animal complaints. Here’s a typical page:
How many incidents in the last week NEEDED an armed law enforcement officer? Maybe two. You don’t need a gun to follow up on an animal complaint, check a fire alarm, or hand out a speeding ticket.
Yet Marion has 30 police officers (10 of them part-time). The police budget is $2 million, 8% of the town’s entire budget, even though Marion has an extremely low crime rate, even in the context of America’s already-historically-low crime rate.
I realize this example doesn’t translate directly for larger communities, so here’s another way of looking at it. Boston’s proposed FY21 police budget is $414 million. The annual military budget of Cuba, allegedly our great rival to the south we need an embargo to keep us safe from, is $500 million. Seems like they could get away with spending a little less!