Newark, New Jersey’s Draconian Public Safety Cuts

Earlier today Reuters reported that, “the Newark, New Jersey police department is disbanding its 120-year-old mounted horseback unit this month.” The eighteen equine officers will be relocated to pasture, or other cities like Philadelphia. Meanwhile the sixteen traditional human officers will be reassigned to squad cars and foot patrol in the city.

According to Josephine Santaniello, a police department spokesperson, the cuts are “because of monetary issues.” Department costs are high due to the maintenance and service that the horses require, including: barns, exercise areas, feed, saddles, officer training, etc.

During a time of fiscal crisis, public officials have to get creative in finding ways to save money. Fortunately for Newark, cuts like this are low hanging fruit that don’t require expending political capital. However, state and local governments across the country are attempting meaningful spending cuts that are more difficult than giving the pink slip to horses.

Unfortunately, spending cuts are far too often described as draconian. For a little bit of historical context it’s appropriate to note the actual etymology of the word. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, draconian has roots tracing back to “1876 (earlier Draconic, implied from 1640s), from Draco, [the] Greek statesman who laid down a code of laws for Athens [in] 621 B.C.E. that mandated death as punishment for minor crimes.”

This historical reality is worth keeping in mind as policymakers continue to grapple with the fiscal aftershock of the Great Recession. To read more on cost savings measures being taken in New Jersey see here and here.

Harris Kenny is a research assistant at Reason Foundation