A search for answers after the death of George Floyd and the black lives matter protests.
The problem with defunding law enforcement is that no one really knows what that means.
Everything falls into the laps of law enforcement because governments feel they have no affordable alternatives. As a result, many cops support defunding initiatives.
While protesters ask all to listen, cops say the same. They are tired of endless, unreasonable demands that will inevitably go wrong.
This is part of an ongoing series of articles to understand society’s reaction to the death of Floyd George and to seek solutions. I will “try” to see both sides of the issue knowing full well that neither will see my critique favorably.
No one disputes that the death of Floyd was criminal. People in law enforcement and police unions are falling over themselves to say this. The officers involved will be charged and prosecuted.
No one disputes that there are problems. Accountability is necessary. It’s been taught to cops throughout their academy training and careers.
The great majority of police officers refused to be stereotyped.
Is it a matter of “defunding” the police or an issue of asking cops to perform duties that they are not trained or equipped to do?
The call to defund the police is interesting; cops have been suggesting it for years. There are endless duties and responsibilities thrust on police agencies that are clearly outside of their scope, manpower, training, efficacy, and equipment.
Cops can’t be all things to all people. There are limits. Being responsible for everything creates endless instances where the use of force may be necessary. There is no such thing as a safe stop. There are no easy arrests.
Police experts have said for decades that law enforcement agencies take on roles that are not compatible with a police mission.
There are four things everyone needs to consider:
The first is that the vast majority of Americans do not want to defund or change their law enforcement agencies beyond ensuring fairness and equal treatment for all, ABC News. This discussion only applies to cities or communities who feel a need to change police tactics. But even those not requesting changes may want to reconsider everything they ask cops to do.
Second, communities should have a say or decision making responsibilities. Aggressive use of stop and frisk dramatically reduced violence and crime in a variety of cities (i.e., the New York City Miracle). But that came with a distressing cost to police-community relations.
Third, there is no doubt that taxes will have to be raised for many defunding endeavors. For example, government should have created a comprehensive array of 24-365 mental health services decades ago but didn’t. That has to change.
Police ordered court consent decrees routinely compel local governments to spend more money on law enforcement to redress past wrongs. If “experts” have decided that law enforcement can only improve through greater expenditures, will defunding erase previous gains?
“If you are living in parts of West Baltimore for example, where they’ve been so resource-deprived, yet they see more and more increases [in spending] for the police, they say, ‘This isn’t fair, and this is not what we want…But at the same time, those same communities are really struggling with violent crime, and for public or private dollars to be invested in those communities, you need violence to go down,” Baltimore Sun.
Finally, defunding law enforcement may have a profoundly negative impact on the viability and economies of cities, CDLLife. Cities with high rates of violence are hemorrhaging jobs, taxes, economic investment, and tourism.
“The Minneapolis City Council on Sunday announced plans to disband its police department and invest in community-based public safety programs following calls from activists to ‘defund the police,’ in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer,” Forbes.
“Police forces across America need root-to-stem changes—to their internal cultures, training and hiring practices, insurance, and governing regulations. Now a longtime demand from social-justice campaigners has become a rallying cry: Defund the police. This is in one sense a last-resort policy: If cops cannot stop killing people, and black people in particular, society needs fewer of them,” The Atlantic.
The Problems-The Suggestions
The problem with defunding law enforcement is that no one really knows what it means. This article provides some suggestions based on decades of discussions as too what cops should and shouldn’t do.
The enforcement of COVID restrictions is one example of something forced on police that creates harm. The law enforcement community clearly stated that they should not be enforcing public health regulations, Forcing Cops To Be Coronavirus Enforcers.
During the height of the pandemic, there was an array of media reports suggesting that profound societal changes were coming; you can’t destroy people’s jobs and businesses and economies without significant pushback.
The solution? Governments should have hired community outreach and mental or public health professionals to enforce COVID restrictions but that responsibility fell to law enforcement thus risking police-community relations.
Many of the people police encounter have current mental health issues. Cops don’t have the training or education necessary to deal with people going through extreme distress. In fact, many of the instances of officers making “mistakes” or using force involves mental health calls. Police executives and officers have asked for years to be relieved of this responsibility.
Decades ago, spurred on by advocates, states and cities defunded mental health hospitals on the basis that patients could be better served in the community. The problem was that governments didn’t provide funding for comprehensive community based mental health care. Thus police respond to extremely challenging incidents. Cops, jails, and prisons became the government’s primary response.
Government needs to fund community-based care that includes 24-365 community response teams, Register Guard.
Cops shouldn’t respond to mental health issues unless there is evidence of violence or the potential for violence. Even then, mental health professionals should take the lead with officers in the background.
It will take millions of dollars to create a revised mental health capacity including secured facilities, but it’s the right thing to do. Not putting mental health patients in jails or prisons means that correctional budgets could be reduced and used for detention and treatment facilities.
This action would significantly reduce the percentage of use of force issues and may cut them in half.
Domestic Violence-Family Disputes
Having mental health professionals take the lead includes domestic violence calls unless there is clear evidence of violence. The problem with endless domestic disputes is that both parties claim aggression. Cops simply do not have the backgrounds and training to meaningfully intervene.
Having mental health professionals take the lead also includes calls where parents want cops to do “something” with their aggressive or threatening child.
Drug Use Is A Public Health Problem
Cities should legalize or decriminalize the possession of all drugs for personal use. We’re already doing this for marijuana. It would now be the responsibility of mayors to create the necessary legislation.
This would dramatically reduce arrests and the police confrontations that come with them, thus freeing up cops for more important duties.
Police community relations would dramatically improve. Drug use is a public health problem, not a police issue.
Government needs to adequately fund drug treatment, which it hasn’t done to this point.
Communities could no longer complain about people on the corners doing drugs.
End Most Traffic Enforcement
This is another source of endless grievances. Simply end the enforcement of traffic laws unless actions are a clear danger to the public.
This will end a considerable list of complaints regarding disproportionate enforcement and improve police-community relations. It will also free up police personpower for more important duties.
Cities that get a significant percentage of their budgets from traffic stops will have to look elsewhere or impose new taxes.
This also applies to traffic control for churches and schools; city paid crossing guards can perform these functions.
Communities can no longer complain to police regarding common issues (i.e., parking control, abandoned or unsafe vehicles, people speeding through their neighborhoods). It would now be a city government issue.
Crime Control-It’s Now Your Responsibility
There is NOTHING that law enforcement agencies have done regarding crime control that did not result in intense criticism. Examples would turn this article into a book.
The debate as to the impact of law enforcement on crime had been discussed by criminologists for decades with some flatly stating that there is no clear effect, Sage. In essence, they state that communities control crime, not law enforcement.
There is rising violence in the US, Violent Crime, and some cities (i.e., Chicago, Baltimore, many others) have exploding levels of violence based on cops not being as aggressive or proactive as they once were. But aggressive policing brings harsh criticism.
Every mayor turns to her chief of police and publically demeans them for exploding violence. Why aren’t mayors publically demeaning communities and citizens?
Community and political leaders have been telling cops to get rid of troublesome people for decades and there is a link between local and political pressure and cases gone bad.
The Baltimore State’s Attorney, who unsuccessfully charged multiple police officers with homicide after the death of Freddie Gray, asked the city police to take action (after community complaints) regarding drug use in the neighborhood Freddie Gray was operating in, NY Times.
In The Eric Garner case in New York, community and business members complained and asked for the removal of people creating problems.
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg apologized for his controversial “stop and frisk” policy that sowed distrust of police in black and Latino communities during his administration.
The enforcement of Coronavirus restrictions was left to law enforcement which created considerable resentment, COVID Enforcement.
Cops warned that ultra-aggressive stop and frisk tactics were harmful and dangerous. They did the same for Coronavirus enforcement. No one listened.
“Mayor Bloomberg could have saved himself this apology if he had just listened to the police officers on the street. We said in the early 2000s that the quota-driven emphasis on street stops was polluting the relationship between cops and our communities,” Fox News.
Beyond The Power Of Police
Whether you do drugs or beat your significant other or buy stolen items or engage in endless arrays of criminal behavior is beyond the power of law enforcement to stop. If you put a cop on every corner, it won’t have an impact as to what’s happening in your own home or private space.
The vast majority of crime, especially violent crime, involves people who know one another. The effectiveness of many crime control endeavors are doomed to failure because most crime takes place outside of a police presence. A friend assaulting you after an argument is simply beyond the scope of law enforcement to prevent.
Criminologists insist that societies control illegal behavior. Drinking and driving, forms of drug use, and domestic violence have seen significant decreases. For example, society decided that hitting your significant other is simply wrong and cannot be condoned.
Many aspects of crime control should be in the hands of city politicians and community organizations.
Former offenders doing “violence interruption” interventions would also play a role, but there is little scientific evidence of success for these efforts beyond one “promising” program, CrimeSolutions.Gov.
Note that citizens are already relying on businesses to address identity theft, 93 percent of cases do not involve law enforcement, Identity Theft.
As to arrests, most police executives state that they are simply carrying out the will of communities. There is a long history of community leadership demanding aggressive action to clear communities of troublesome or dangerous people, Community Demands.
There is a history of “liberal” leadership calling for more arrests. Joe Biden (and endless others) strongly supported aggressive law enforcement and incarceration in the past. Per the former Vice President, “Give me the crime issue … and you’ll never have trouble with it in an election.”
If any of this is remotely true, and if everyone supported (demanded?) arrests and incarcerations, then why is this solely a matter of police officers gone bad?
While protestors ask all to listen, cops say the same. They are tired of endless, unreasonable demands encouraging arrests that will inevitably go wrong.
There was a time when society was not arrest-happy. The philosophy was that police officers should make judicious and limited arrests. Because of political pressure, aggressive policing is so ingrained in law enforcement that many officers don’t know what proceeded it.
There was a time when many people drinking and driving (limited consumption) were sent home in a cab. That was before Mothers Against Drunk Driving insisted on arrests for everyone. There was a time when most non-violent domestic disputes involved warnings and referrals to local counselors. That was before advocates insisted on arrests of both parties. There was a time when most juveniles involved in minor criminal incidents were taken home to their parents. Even violent cases between people knowing each other did not automatically end in an arrest.
How The New Era Of Crime Control Could Be Done
Cities would survey community residents weekly as to their preferences. The data would be incorporated into a database segmenting location, demographics, solutions, and preferences. Citizens would be asked about their perceptions of law enforcement, government and community organizations tasked with crime control, Communities Must Do More.
Daily crime and arrest data (by location) would be pushed to citizens and the media via social media, websites, and email.
Cities and communities would run open forms that’s would be live-streamed to residents. They would have the ability to instantly vote on proposals via websites or their phones or in person.
Communities and residents would debate crime policy and decide what they want as to enforcement and the agencies responsible. Local politicians and community leaders would be accountable for most crime control solutions. There would be no screaming at police; no demands for results unless they are addressing major crimes.
This will take considerable public and private funding.
The end of law enforcement’s sole responsibilities for all crime control will give residents the power they seek.
Let community and faith leadership be responsible for crowd control. Let cities and states train them to stand between protesters and businesses to stop looting and to restore calm. This happened spontaneously in dozens of communities. Younger people listen to their community elders.
Law enforcement agencies can always be in the background to step in if necessary.
So What’s Left For law Enforcement?
Investigations and arrests for murder, rape or sexual assault, robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries, vehicle thefts, and similar felonies would continue.
Officers would do routine preventive patrol, engage residents in community-based policing, and respond to “appropriate” calls for service.
Citizens would report most criminal activity through police and community websites. Most lower-level criminal activity would not be investigated. This will free up time so officers can engage in quality time with the community.
Private security would dramatically increase. The use of video cameras and home security systems would be mandated, Amazon.
Cops would now have the time to respond to terrible accidents, major crimes in progress, lost children, serious domestic violence, and other activities that are clearly in the community’s best interest.
Return to foot patrols. Make sure that officers have the time to attend all community meetings. Insist that cops be present in the communities and engage residents in conversation in their homes, parks, places of worship, or neighborhood gatherings.
We have been talking about community policing for decades. Now is the time to put these endeavors in place. Stop talking and do it.
Police community relations would dramatically improve and we would find out if community policing actually works (the current research is inconclusive). It will cost a ton of money for cities to free up the personpower to do this but it’s time to do the right thing.
Camden, New Jersey Had Nothing To Do With Defunding
Camden is being offered as a glowing example of getting rid of an existing police department and creating a new one with a community-based philosophy.
Per CNN, “Now, seven years after the old department was booted (though around 100 officers were rehired), the city’s crime has dropped by close to half. Officers host outdoor parties for residents and knock on doors to introduce themselves. It’s a radically different Camden than it was even a decade ago.”
“Back then residents of Camden city absolutely feared the police department and members of the department,” “They (the residents) wanted that to change. Violent crimes have dropped 42% in seven years, according to city crime data provided by the department. The crime rate has dropped from 79 per 1,000 to 44 per 1,000, the data shows, “CNN.
There you have it. Per one of the nation’s leading news organizations, disband the police and have them engage in community policing and you will have happy, satisfied residents with lower crime.
However, per USA Today, Camden is the most violent city in New Jersey, USA Today. There are an endless array of cities (i.e., Baltimore-Chicago) with declining rates of crime that remain very dangerous places.
Your chances for being a victim of violent crime in Camden are I in 62. For the rest of New Jersey, your chance is 1 in 481, Neighborhood Scout.
Per The Crime Report, “In 2011, state budget woes led to laying off almost half the 400 officers. A period of devastating crime followed, with a record 67 homicides in 2012. County leaders pushed for a new department that included a less-burdensome union contract they said would allow more officers to be hired. Police unions opposed it. Officers had to reapply for jobs on the county force alongside new recruits. The budget for the new force ended up millions higher that first year than what the city had planned to spend and it continues to grow,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
So much for defunding the police.
The debate surrounding defunding the police can be an opportunity to rethink public policy and what we want cops to do. Just be aware that “someone” has to be in a position to render necessary services that will come at a significant cost to taxpayers.
Pressuring law enforcement to do the impossible would end.
Cops and police experts have said for decades that local politicians, cities, and communities mandate that law enforcement take on roles that are not compatible with a police mission.
Ending these activities would dramatically reduce arrests and improve police-community relations.
My only warning is that residents may not like the results. There are multiple cities where cops are not being aggressive (per community complaints) and violence is skyrocketing. Be careful of what you ask for. If your community becomes dangerous, remember, it’s what you asked for.
See more articles on crime and justice at Crime in America.
Most Dangerous Cities/States/Countries at Most Dangerous Cities.
US Crime Rates at Nationwide Crime Rates.
National Offender Recidivism Rates at Offender Recidivism.
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