Defunding the Police: what does it mean, and why do it now? Defunding the police does not mean, as many people seem to think, disbanding the entire police force. Rather, it is more about a reallocation of funds to things like education, youth groups, housing, etc. Defunding the police has become more of a hot topic recently due to the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, as well as many others that have recently come to light. These deaths have sparked public outcry and protests against the police. The protests themselves have caused even more of an outrage, as protestors were sprayed with tear gas and shot with rubber bullets. So what is the right answer? I talked to my friend, who I’ll call SH, who works in the police department and who had some ideas about the idea of reform and defunding.
Liz: I was wondering if I could get your opinion on defunding the police? SH: Ask away! I don’t care for the terminology though. Re-allocating funding I think is better. Officers have been thrust into responding to situations which they have no business responding to. I’ll also say I believe focusing on police is a distraction. The racial disparities run so much deeper. Red-lining, media, history books, funding, poverty… Our government created “criminals” then sent police in to punish them. Liz: So what do you mean by the government created criminals and then sent police in to punish them? Do you mean by the lack of education, etc., that affects the rates of crime? The lack of housing? The ghettos we made ourselves by pushing people out with taxes and the rising cost of living?
SH: I mean red-lining them into underfunded districts with lack of access to funding for home loans, student loans, ergo, less tax money for schools. This equals more crowded classrooms, less extracurriculars, etc. In laymen’s terms, you create “ghettos” then send police in to control the “criminals” that are a product of the system they were boxed into. Sociology proves it’s not race that dictates crime, it’s poverty. This is why the black on black crime narrative is a crock of government crap.
Liz: Where do you think the funds should actually go? SH: Training. I’ve never met a person in LE who has complained about too much training. Truly good officers want to be better, but budget restrictions often mean they have less access to good training. I also think officers should have more initial training before they’re certified. In Ohio, 6 months of schooling is standard. I would like to see more. And more consistent training. You lose it if you don’t practice.
Liz: So you think the funds should go into training the police force and not into things like housing and education? SH: If you’re talking about re-allocating funds currently earmarked for LE, I would say this… Officers should no longer respond to non-criminal circumstances. No more neighbor disputes, no more “Johnny won’t go to school” no more “kids are playing in the street, etc. Use that time and money for training. I believe all of this is separate from the reforms that are desperately needed in government, yet no one is discussing. End red-lining. Period. End gerrymandering. Period. Redraw those districts to be 100% equal, not based upon pushing families of color into districts which lead to less funding from taxes. This all has to stop.
Billions of dollars are spent each year for the funding of the police departments. “In 2017, state and local governments $115 billion on police (4 percent of state and local direct general expenditures) and $79 billion on corrections (3 percent)” according to the Urban Institute. Other countries spend less than half that on their police force. Also, that money could go to things like mental health and homelessness, to fix the broken system we find ourselves in. For example, in Sweden, they will send out mental health professionals to deal with certain situations rather than the police. In Stockholm, they have a mental health ambulance which consists of two trained nurses and a driver, and they are sent to deal with certain situations so that the police don’t have to.
Another issue with the police force is that, compared to other countries like Germany, where police officers are required to take 2.5 to 4 years of basic training, in some areas of the United States training can be completed in 21 weeks. Even my friend, SH, noted that there should be more training in the US police force, and that’s someone directly involved in it. I’m not saying that we need to abolish the police. What I’m saying is that there are steps that need to be taken in order for good change to happen. The police need to be trained more, we need to focus more on mental health and give funding to the professionals that deal with mental health, and also to free up our police force to do what they’re actually paid to do. We need to ban chokeholds and excessive force, dissolve immunity and make pension harder to keep when regulations aren’t followed. We have a long way to go, but it isn’t impossible. We have a framework to look at from other more evolved countries such as Scotland, Sweden and Germany. But I firmly believe that we can make this country and this world a better place.