So You Want to Defund The Police?
What Defunding the Police Looks Like
Cristal M Clark
I was at the market this AM, lots of folks out early and a lot of talk about what it would mean to defund the police. For the most part people understand what that means while some think it means shutting down police departments nationwide. There’s been a lot of talk around defunding, dismantling, abolishing, and reimagining what police forces look like. And with all of that talk, a lot of confusion about what each concept really means.
Defunding the police simply means that funds would be diverted away from police and reinvesting the funds back into the community, mental health care and the like.
I wrote about this at length a few years ago, it’s a smart move but the trick is, doing it right. At the start of the statewide shutdowns, we had states not able to make it two hours into the shutdown without being bankrupt, so who can we trust to control reinvesting those funds and doing it properly? We need to be smart about talks surrounding defunding the police here, local and state governments more than proved in a very overwhelming way that they are not capable of being responsible when it comes to taxpayer dollars when we shut the nation down, now they are begging for a bailout from Trump.
Not that they should not be getting a bailout but the reality here is who can we trust to handle this type of move properly?
Does defunding mean less police on the streets? Most likely not, the reality here is that police these days are expected to do more than just police and in a lot of cases they are performing services they were never trained to handle. Police are performing homeless services, working with children in schools, responding to calls for mental health crises, performing social work and welfare checks, mediating non-violent domestic disputes,fighting terrorism abroad and responding to drug overdoses.
So when we talk about defunding we must first find ways that communities can bring in outsiders to handle nonviolent situations, that means bringing social workers, community leaders who work with the homeless already, people who are medically trained to help with drug addiction issues and victims advocates who know and understand how to deescalate in domestic violence situations.
People who are in favor of defunding the department argue that reform and laws don’t stop police from illegally killing citizens and others want to better train the police, some are calling for legal oversight of what police can and cannot do, with more training as a solution. But we have been down that road so many times before and has it really had an impact on police getting away with behaving badly?
Here is the example: The police department in Minneapolis, where George Floyd was killed, instituted significant reforms and training programs based on President Obama’s task force on policing in response to the unrest in Ferguson, Mo. The police force required bias and de-escalation training and the use of body cameras. It tightened its use-of-force standards, diversified its leadership, and started collecting demographic data. Yet we find ourselves again, a black man was killed ruthlessly at the hands of a white cop who had multiple complaints filed against him previously for excessive use of force.
We faced that question, and we failed at the reform and training thing.
Camden, N.J. dismantled its entire police force in 2012 at that time they enjoyed a murder rate more than 6 times the national average and 175 open-air drug markets within the city’s nine square miles.
You know what happened?
Murder rates declined significantly, and by 2018, the city experienced its lowest rate since 1987, robberies, violent crimes, and property crimes also declined.
After the police department was disbanded, chief of police J. Scott Thomson created the Camden County Police Department where he hired more officers with lower pay and placed an emphasis on community policing and that has been working.
J. Scott Thomson: “For us to make the neighborhood look and feel the way everyone wanted it to, it wasn’t going to be achieved by having a police officer with a helmet and a shotgun standing on a corner. Officers identify more with being in the Peace Corps than being in the Special Forces.”
Almost all of the officers in the city now have GPS tracking and body cameras. There is an 18-page use-of-force policy, police are required to intervene when they see abuse of power, and the department has the authority to fire any officer who acts out of line.
That is what protesters and communities are asking for, the government shoved the training and reform stuff down our throats and quite simply put it hasn’t worked, it’s time to try something new.
Accomplishing that is much easier said than done, we can’t dismantle police departments nationwide, but we can change how they police turning them into more of a Peace Corps force rather than a large militant group.
It is time to start funding community police programs and to rely less on Police nationwide to handle issues and problems they simply are not trained to handle, it’s time to demilitarize police and to train them better at being partners of the community and less at being bullies, untrustworthy, murderous and as if they are above and over us just because they were a uniform, have a badge and carry a gun. Just about anyone can do that these days.
Cristal M Clark