Reforms, defunding may lead to mass exodus among law enforcement officers
Tuesday, July 07, 2020
Police across the country are feeling mounting pressure. Black Lives Matter and other activists are demanding large-scale police reforms, policy changes, and defunding measures.
Members of the Atlanta Police Department say their morale has taken a massive hit. Many officers are feeling abandoned by city officials though the city has committed to give officers a pay raise.
Officer safety became an issue, too. Hours after charges, including one for murder, were announced for two officers in the killing of Rayshard Brooks, some police officers in Atlanta stopped responding to calls.
There were initial rumors that multiple officers from each zone in the city had walked off the job, which later proved to be inaccurate. City officials hope that officers will keep their commitment to their communities. But departments in Minneapolis and Seattle have already faced a lot of officer resignations.
As calls for defunding get louder, morale among the rank-and-file is at one of its lowest points in decades. While defunding is controversial, some reforms aren't. Many cities announced changing the use-of-force policy and fighting crime differently. Better utilization of data, intelligence, and technology instead of frequent street stops will prevent officers from both danger and liability.
Defunding will likely lead to both low morale and a mass exodus. Law enforcement advocates point out how dangerous that would be for the nation. It may be harder to recruit new officers. Even if organizations manage to recruit young officers, they may lose demotivated veterans. Recruits may not have the experience the job requires, and the force will lose street-level IQ.
The resignation of Police Chief Erika Shields further demoralized the Atlanta force. A much-liked leader, she actively believed in positive police relations within all communities. Officers now feel lost. They are apprehensive about police work in this current climate, where one mistake could lead to an indictment, and they are expected to disengage.
Defunding the police is not the best solution. It would likely hamstring a vital public service. Many call for diverting resources from the police to social-service systems, but that is no solution for the systems' dysfunctional state. There have been many programs dedicated to social services, but some have ended up as chronic policy failures.
Most officers are concerned for the future of law enforcement amid the ongoing backlash. They are afraid to speak out or do their duty without fear of backlash. It is no secret that police departments have been suffering from cash shortages, and budget cuts in the last few years have made their jobs harder.
While many officers feel that their governments have not stood by them, many in the government and conservative Democrats do not support eliminating police departments or taking away all of their funding. Instead, they are stressing reform and good policing, steps to address policing problems in America, systemic racism and increased officer accountability.
If police departments are mostly defunded or disbanded, there will be significant repercussions. People in more impoverished neighborhoods with a high crime rate will have no one to turn to for help. In wealthy suburbs, citizens can afford to buy their own protective police force. So instead of public-supported police, certain areas will witness a boom in the armed-security services sector. But that is not the same as serving the community as a whole.
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