Taking Sides: The Police SHOULD Be Defunded

Anna Childs, Coulmnist/Staff Writer

  As the brutal death of George Floyd and subsequent prevalence of the Black Lives Matter movement rose to media attention in June 2020, the notion of defunding the police was questioned throughout America. Though police reform has been attempted in the past, it has failed time and time again given the untouchable nature of the police and their inherent effect of enforcing systemic discrimination. The most effective measure to decrease crime, police deaths, and poverty in underprivileged communities is to defund the police entirely and replace them with local crisis responders more properly equipped to handle situations of varying severity.

  Historically, the police have served to perpetuate inequality. Policing Policy Advisor for the ACLU Paige Fernandez divulged, “American policing has never been a neutral institution. The first U.S. city police department was a slave patrol, and modern police forces have directed oppression and violence at Black people to enforce Jim Crow, wage the War on Drugs, and crack down on protests” (ACLU). Nowadays, their purpose has strayed very little. Poverty, race, and policing are deeply intertwined, and many aspects of poverty have been criminalized, including sleeping in cars or public places, begging for money or food, public urination, shoplifting, and many other things those in poverty do when they don’t have the privilege of their own living space. In addition to poverty, the immense presence of police in Black neighborhoods labels these spaces as particularly in need of policing. Over-surveillance in these areas also leads to disproportionate arrests of Black citizens, resulting in harsher policing, and so forth (New Yorker). 

  Many argue that the police are necessary for keeping crime rates low and upholding a sense of safety within society. However, police are entirely unequipped to handle the majority of social issues in local communities and often respond with inappropriate levels of force. When petty crimes and even mental health crises or domestic disputes are addressed with fully armed policemen, all that results is more death at the hands of those meant to keep our citizens safe. The American Public Health Association stated in 2018 that “almost 10 percent of all homicides in the U.S. are committed by police.” Regardless of the crime, police should ultimately solely be there to de-escalate a situation and bring suspected criminals to be tried and charged. They should never be granted the authority of judge, jury, and executioner, which has become all too common.

Police are entirely unequipped to handle the majority of social issues in local communities and often respond with inappropriate levels of force,”

— A. Childs

  Past attempts to reform and moderate the police force have ultimately failed. Many cite body cameras and de-escalation training as a less extreme alternative to complete police defunding, but these have been proven to be ineffective. Body cams are regularly turned off by police and have failed in decreasing violent behavior, instead increasing surveillance of those being policed. (American Friends Service Committee). Time and time again, it has been demonstrated that members of law enforcement can use and abuse their power, being protected by law and the systems of racial and income inequality that have remained in place for decades. Ultimately, if we are to see progress in our country in terms of community-wide safety and security, we need to address the root of our social issues locally and at the hands of real experts instead of combating them with unnecessary violence.