A closer look at police reform and defunding proposals
Monday, June 15, 2020
In the wake of protests in response to George Floyd's death, Americans have hit the streets to demand justice and accountability from the police, with many proposing some level of defunding departments.
One of the first to put such proposals into motion is Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who said he is planning to defund the Minneapolis Police Department heavily following a veto-proof vote by the Minneapolis City Council. He is prepared to heed to demands that some of the department’s funding be redirected toward mental health resources, affordable housing, and solutions for the opioid epidemic. Frey, however, is not in favor of abolishing the city's police department.
While Republicans believe that Democrats are pushing radical ideas, many Democrats are in conflict with each other on the issue. Some are on board with defunding reforms, while others like presumptive presidential nominess Joe Biden want to initiate reforms without dismantling or defunding police departments.
Frey has promised to work on reforms and change the pervasive and systemic racism underlying the city’s policing system. Others, like the Minneapolis City Council member Jeremiah Ellison, have called for dismantling Minneapolis’ police and dramatically rethinking how we approach public safety and emergency responses.
Some envision defunding the police as a complete structural dismantling of departments. Others state that existing departments get less funding and fewer government resources. They suggest that some of these resources be redirected towards social justice programs.
Calls for defunding the police are also coming in from politicians and celebrities in Chicago; Portland, Oregon; and Washington, D.C. In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti has already decreased police funding by $150 million and redistributed the money to black communities and communities of color. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, too, announced his decision to divert funds for the NYPD toward social services.
Detractors have called this move to defund the police as dangerous, irrational, counterproductive, and unsafe for the nation.
Congressional Democrats, in the meantime, have released a bill to reform policing to overhaul police practices. The legislation seeks to make sweeping changes that would hold officers more accountable and deter police use of force. They wish to make it easier for victims of abuse to recover damages. Talks are also ongoing about banning chokeholds and creating a national registry of police misconduct.
Over $100 billion is invested in policing across the nation annually. But as the recent protests show, it isn't working as it should. It is not equitable or effective, and disproportionately fails Americans of all colors, with blacks receiving the brunt of the injustice. The overuse and overmilitarization of police in America may not be the whole truth but is an unfortunate and a bitter pill that we have to swallow.
Although a vast majority acknowledged racial bias in policing and supported police reforms, only 16% of respondents in a poll conducted at the end of May favor cutting funds for police departments.
The ideal solution lies in reimagining policing and traditional law enforcement activities without eliminating every police officer. In this way, social workers or other non-police professionals can help victims of domestic violence, alcoholism, youth offenders, mental illness, addiction, and homelessness.
As Biden and Bernie Sanders said, the solution does not lie in defunding the police but in providing them with the resources they need to implement meaningful reforms. We need well-trained, well-educated, and well-paid professionals in police departments.
We need a force to combat crime, because criminals are not going away. But the need of the hour is to redefine what police departments do and give them the support they need to make their jobs better defined. Resources to implement better training against the use of force, bias training, body cameras, and community policing initiatives will lead to much-needed reforms and better policing.
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