Recent events triggered by the senseless death of George Floyd have prompted serious discussions on the role of law enforcement in our society.
But as movements to defund and/or disband the police force grow in popularity, we’re left to wonder what such a future would look like.
Cases of police brutality have mounted up, prompting the recent protests, lootings, and riots we have seen in our country. The straw that broke the camel’s back happened in Minneapolis when police officers were publicly filmed in broad daylight taking the life of Floyd by means of suffocation. The situation sparked public outcry as Floyd was not in a position to resist the arrest.
Calls To Defund the Police Are Spreading
City councils are now hearing the grievances of those who favor defunding police departments and are voting on such measures. In Raleigh, NC, the city council voted against lowering the budget for the Raleigh PD, causing an uproar in the community. But what is it exactly that protesters want, and how does the government envision the delivery of such demands?
The country is rightly confused at how such a wild proposal could be carried out. As examples of lawlessness and anarchy appear throughout our biggest cities, the idea of not having a police force seems outrageous. But we first must distinguish between the two, very different concepts of defunding and disbanding, in order to understand what the situation fully entails.
The country is rightly confused at how such a wild proposal could be carried out.
The concept of defunding is based on the idea that there are other methods to make the community safer. By investing in the people, rescuing them from poverty, and allowing them a chance to thrive, there would be less crime, and therefore less need for bloated police department budgets. The issue here is the chicken or the egg. By defunding police and funding new projects, we could be setting up a future generation for success, but only at the cost of the current generation. The violence would mount and the transition wouldn’t go smoothly. It’s even likely that the generations to come, marked by the current levels of violence, would still suffer the results of our poor choices throughout their lifetime.
It Puts Our Civil Protections at Risk
Now, if defunding wasn’t enough, the concept of disbanding not only includes that, but also dismantling the whole idea of how we currently see community policing and law enforcement and implementing alternatives instead. What those alternatives are, we don’t yet know. The reason why this idea is much more dangerous, is because it would likely involve higher levels of surveillance and disregard for individual privacy. By ensuring that everyone is kept under a Minority Report type of reality, we’re putting ourselves on a path of further division between the government and those it’s supposed to protect. Acting in haste, we’re likely to bump into (and steamroll over) certain legal protections, such as the right to due process and the 4th amendment of the Bill of Rights.
Where Are the Sane Voices?
Politicians are particularly prone to jump to offering quick solutions to appease their voter base, especially in election years. The more sensible voices are able to understand the ramifications of such sudden changes to the system that has historically helped uphold and maintain social contracts since the early days of civilization. Enforcing commonly agreed-upon rules is embedded in the foundation of every society. Any radical change must be analyzed and studied to ensure we don’t end up worse off. But voters might not look at this favorably. They demand urgent action, regardless of the outcome.
In the midst of such noise, the voices of reason and experience are drowned.
And in the midst of such noise, the voices of reason and experience are drowned. The media chooses to focus on the radicals and extremists rather than on those who have lost their livelihoods, their homes, their lives. Social unrest and lawlessness will come at the cost of the lives and dreams of our fellow Americans, and jumping into making such decisions motivated by the frenzy of coverage of radicals and anarchists on the streets doesn’t do our community justice. It’s in moments like these that we must stop and ask ourselves if we’re being moved by logic or emotion. And if we’re moved by logic, we’d better have facts, plans, and receipts. Well, I do.
I Know What a World with Bad Police Looks Like
In my own experience, thrusting ourselves into big systemic changes without understanding what such changes entail can be, more often than not, harmful to the overall population and result in chaos and, subsequently, more government control, which is what I’m assuming we’re all trying to avoid (but correct me if I’m wrong here).
By simply taking power away from the police without a clear plan to substitute it (serious research, trial areas, etc.), we begin this process with what should be its ending. We can see this in places like the now-disbanded Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone in Seattle where criminal activity is rampant and no one is actually able to enjoy the utopian view of the peaceful society they initially had in mind.
The police didn’t understand that people were forced into criminality due to failed public policy.
Coming from an impoverished area of South America, there was constant war between the police and the population. The police didn’t understand that the population was thrust into criminality due to the harsh living conditions resulting from failed public policy. Conversely, the people didn’t realize the police were simply trying to maintain minimal order. There was severe animosity, and when the government refused to pay the police a living wage, they decided to stop working. Their outdated equipment, the violence and targeting they suffered from the criminals, combined with low morale due to lack of support from elected officials and months without receiving pay, made the decision to leave their jobs a quite easy one to make.
Rampant crime made life almost impossible.
Chaos ensued. People weren’t able to go to work because carjacking, robberies, kidnappings, and other criminal activities were widespread. The economy fell further into the hole, and everyone became a hostage in their own homes, dreading going out, as not only could they suffer violence in the process of leaving their homes, but it was almost impossible to find a business that was open and operating. Ran out of food and need to go to the grocery store? Well, too bad. You were left to constantly wonder if someone would attempt to break into your home. You knew that your community was being predated on by violent criminals going unchecked, and all you could do was hope you weren’t their next victim.
Closing Thoughts: What Do We Really Want?
It’s a necessary part of the democratic process to take a hard look at our systems and ensure they serve the population as intended, to ask difficult questions, and to prompt public leaders to enact change when required. But, as my mother would say, making decisions in a time when emotions are running high is never a good idea because we forget about the consequences and ramifications of our actions. And as those come, we better hope we didn’t create a bigger problem than the one we were initially attempting to solve.
Checks and balances exist for a reason. The societal system of rules we have exists for a reason. Part of the discussion is understanding which of these systems are intertwined and the impact of such links. It’s my belief that police reform runs deeper than just the police. It includes legal reform, prison reform, and perhaps even governmental reform to a certain extent. It’s a conversation that can’t be held in just a week, and if we attempt to do so, we will hurt those in society who are the most vulnerable, those we’re seeking to protect in the first place.
Engaging in the political discussion, continuously demanding change, and holding those in power accountable to deliver those changes will be what not only keeps us afloat, but also what helps us reach safe and dry land. Anything else will only make us sink faster than we already are.