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David Avila is accused of attacking the occupants of three vehicles just before 4 p.m. on July 14 in Oceanside. File photo
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Growing police spending in North County

REGION — The three North County cities with their own police departments—Oceanside, Escondido and Carlsbad—have generally increased discretionary spending on police, while at the same time policing activity has fallen.

Especially in the wake of Minneapolis police officers killing George Floyd, an African American man, on May 25, protestors nationwide have called on local governments to shift funding from law enforcement budgets to other community programs.

Locally, for example, at the Escondido City Council’s June 10 meeting, hundreds of residents advocated reducing police spending in the city’s FY 2020-2021 budget.

Data graphic by Dan Brendel

In an effort to determine how police spending in North County has actually trended historically, The Coast News dug into city budgets and other financial reports. Here’s what we found.

Since 2003, city discretionary (General Fund) spending on police per capita has, after adjusting for inflation, increased by 58%, 50% and 15%, respectively, in Carlsbad, Oceanside and Escondido.

By comparison, policing activities per capita generally declined.

Though it’s important to note that the documents we investigated didn’t all report the same policing measures.

Data graphic by Dan Brendel

In particular, while Oceanside and Escondido’s reports include arrests and citations, Carlsbad’s include caseloads and calls for service.

Still, we think these data show meaningful and reasonably comparable trends, if not exactly apples to apples.

The comparability of the cities’ spending patterns is surer.

The expenditure figures we compiled came mostly from annual financial reports with fairly standardized formats, as well as from each city’s budget documents.

Data graphic by Dan Brendel

Escondido spends the greatest share of its General Fund on its police, but the least per capita, due to a small overall budget relative to the population. Compared to Carlsbad and Oceanside, Escondido’s per capita spending on police has remained relatively flat over the years.

Carlsbad spends the least share of its General Fund on its police, but the most per capita, due to a large overall budget relative to the population.

Compared to Oceanside and Escondido, Carlsbad’s per capita spending on police has not only increased but accelerated since about 2016.

The Coast News used the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ online CPI Inflation Calculator. For links to the specific city documents from which we extracted expenditure and population figures, see our raw data spreadsheet, linked here in this article’s online version.

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