A new call for reform has arisen as part of the current social upheaval resulting from the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other victims of police brutality and overreach: Defund the police.
While its proponents (and opposers) are many, this is a huge concept, with equally huge ramifications for our communities and our country as a whole.
And, despite the outcry and continuous push of those who claim this is the correct solution to the real and current problems facing black Americans, there are issues with these proposals that have the potential to do more harm than good, in addition to further injuring the very group it’s seeking to help.
What Do People Mean When They Say “Defund”?
First, while there seems to be agreement across the board that the police should be quote-unquote “defunded,” there’s an equal lack of agreement on what defunding actually means. Many argue that defunding would simply mean the reallocation of funds to more social services, such as community-based projects and prevention in crime-heavy areas, while engaging more local officials and citizens in participation instead of solely relying on police.
Still others say defunding would remove all dependence on police and to abolish the system completely, as reform in such an already flawed process is impossible. So, which is it?
Does “defunding” mean the reallocation of funds to more social services or abolishing the system completely?
If there’s a lack of understanding on the part of those who have genuine questions and concerns about this solution, it’s not hard to see why. Yet, they’re shrugged off, patronized, relegated to the status of misguided or uninformed, and worse still, gaslighted and told, “Defunding the police doesn’t actually mean getting rid of the police.”
Except whenever the same group complains about something else being "defunded", they use it as a synonym for "eliminated." For example, activists complain that conservatives want to "defund" Planned Parenthood, and imply that defunding the organization will mean eliminating it entirely. For some, that’s exactly what it means, and we should stop pretending it doesn’t.
Jumping Straight to “Defund” Ignores More Reasonable Solutions
Many criticisms of the police force are completely genuine. It does seem questionable that cops are only given a few months’ training, require no degrees, and often lack the motivation and incentive to pursue those degrees, while counterparts in Europe, for example, often study for years before attaining such positions.
However, it does seem just as puzzling that the solution to these criticisms would be to disintegrate a system entirely because the subjects in question lack training or awareness, which can be taught, as we’re told repeatedly by social media during all of this.
If a lack of training and accountability is the issue, shouldn’t that be the first thing we address?
The opposition to defunding (or at least “reallocating”) even argues that these propositions are largely urban-centric, and have little to no regard for rural areas, or even areas with already decreased funding, pay, and staffing.
Suggestions such as banning no-knock raids altogether, ending the militarization of law enforcement, mandating body-cam use, banning qualified immunity for officers as well as the requirement of so-called mandatory minimums evidently were not considered at all before arriving at this conclusion.
Replacing the Police with Other Professions Won’t Solve the Training Issue
The most common objection seems to be, and logically so, if police are removed, who will take their place? According to popular media sites, the answer is almost anyone and everyone who can. Sociologists, social workers, forensic scientists, doctors, and many more are all being called upon to fill the void.
But replacing police with these professionals would mean additional training, education, and possibly more years in school obtaining specific, specialized degrees for them. Wouldn’t it be simpler to adjust and reform training for the police specifically, instead of asking a social worker to respond to a domestic violence dispute?
Sociologists, social workers, forensic scientists, doctors, and many more are all being called upon to fill the void.
It’s commonly known that domestic violence incidents are the most dangerous calls for cops to respond to. In fact, the Department of Justice reports that 40% of police officer deaths are related to domestic violence incidents. How can we be sure that a social worker who replaces law enforcement will be equipped efficiently to respond to such incidents? Training them effectively for such incidents would mean giving them a similar training to what cops receive. And so the original question about training is reintroduced all over again.
Defunding the police leaves vulnerable groups unprotected.
Whether sources are “reallocated,” whether law enforcement is defunded or abolished, whether we as a society get rid of cops entirely, crime will remain. Crimes that victimize certain vulnerable communities over others, crimes against women, children, and minorities, violent and nonviolent crimes, will still exist despite the loudest voice in the room. It seems almost careless to think that this complex system can be readily solved by an adjustment in personnel.
We Need To Watch and Learn from the Communities Now without Police
While many might think this rhetoric is not a reality, it may be seen sooner than later, at least for cities like Minneapolis, whose city council voted to dismantle the police department, in favor of a “community-led public safety system.” Thankfully, the city council does not actually have the authority to eliminate the department, and the matter will have to go up before the voters to be resolved. Just how this system is specifically funded, who its members include, and how it will respond to specific crimes and issues, among other things, has yet to be addressed.
In Seattle, an area comprising several city blocks has been renamed the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) — a utopian, communist-inspired area where citizens function without the assistance or necessity of police. In just a matter of days, CHOP has devolved into a neighborhood controlled by a self-described warlord where arson, looting, and assault are commonly observable.
Whether we as a society get rid of cops entirely or not, crime will remain.
For many who view the government and its bureaucracy as overreaching, defunding law enforcement and taking public funds out of the equation seems like a dream come true. But introducing civilians, or even other professionals, into the discussion creates a much larger system and a much larger margin for error, not the opposite.
Law enforcement and any other guilty party responsible for perpetuating inequality and injustice should be held accountable. That much is obvious, and hopefully, that much is evident to anyone seeking a real solution to this issue.
For now at least, it looks like those calling for defunding can’t even agree on what really needs to happen — abolition or reallocation. But this hastily-proposed solution is now becoming very real for citizens in certain parts of the country, and we should all watch closely to what could happen.
Our country, as we see in the very document its creation was founded on, has the responsibility to protect its people — all of its people — and to ensure their rights. We should not beg them to then abandon us when we could need it the most.