My thesis for this article is: We need to do more than defund the police in America.
Defunding the police has been the current battle cry in America in the wake of George Floyd's murder in Minneapolis.
I honestly didn't understand the battle cry, and I'm still doing research into it. One of my misconceptions about this statement was thinking it meant "disbanding" instead of "defunding." Disbanding the police would lead to complete chaos and anarchy in our society. We need the police to uphold law and order. We cannot disband them. We should not disband them.
But I wholeheartedly believe that more reforms need to be made to the police force than just defunding the police a bit (keep reading to hear my whole argument).
Defunding the police is NOT the same as disbanding them. (so that made me happy in my preliminary research)
When people argue for defunding the police, they are saying they want to reinvest more in long-term social service programs in each city and county.
What defunding the police technically means is to re-fund social services --- to redirect some of the police budget to those social services in order to help people with mental health issues, housing issues, transportation issues, education, and more.
Based on the minimal research I have done, it is clear that the police budgets have increased a lot over the last couple of decades in the U.S. and social services budgets have decreased.
Look at these links to learn more about police budgets increasing the last couple of years:
- Forbes: How Much Do U.S. Cities Spend Every Year On Policing? [Infographic]
- U.S. News & World Report: Cities Spend More and More on Police. Is It Working?
- St. Louis Dispatch: St. Louis spends far too much on policing, far too little on everything else
- City Lab: The Price of Defunding the Police
- Blavity: This Study Found That Major U.S. Cities Spend Millions More On Policing Than On Social Programs
- Next City (Op-ed): Why Rising Police Budgets Aren't Making Cities Safer
- HuffPost (Op-ed): It's Time to Reimagine Safety and Security in Our Communities
- East Bay Times (Op-ed): Oakland Spends Far Too Much on Policing
- Univision: ¿Vale la pena quitarle dinero a la policía para apoyar temas como la vivienda, la educación y la salud
- El Diario (Op-ed): Es tiempo que reconsideremos lo que significa la seguridad en nuestras comunidades
- Rewire: Advocates: 'Blue Lives Matter' Group Pushes Dangerous Narratives
- Marc Steiner (radio): Freedom To Thrive: Criminalization, Policing, and Mass Incarceration
- Hello Beautiful: Facebook Livestream
- Moorbey blog: The Criminalized Majority
- Minnesota Daily (UMinn Newspaper): Study shows nearly one-third of Minneapolis general fund goes to police
- The New York Times: The High Cost of Policing
- The Crime Report: Should Chicago Spend Money on a Police Academy?
Social services are a much needed part of our society to help individuals up and out of the problems they are experiencing - problems that could lead to an increase in crime if not addressed. And again, based on my minimal research, I see people's logical points with defunding the police and redirecting those funds to more social services. That is the main point - to refund social services, not just to take money away and not put it where it is needed. And another point is not to make the police force have NOTHING. That's ridiculous, our law enforcement officers need a budget. They just don't need as much.
That's where I stand on defunding the police (for now). If I change my mind later after doing more in depth research, you will be the first to know.
But there are more reforms that need to take place within the police.
The following is not a complete list of what needs to happen. I'm not an expert on this. But I hope this list gives you a better image of how the system of law and order needs a lot of changes - more than just defunding the police.
If I were in charge of reforming the police (and closely related things to policing in America), I would do the following:
Re-structure the Police Training across the Whole United States
I would make de-escalating training, diversity classes, and racism tests mandatory for people in the police academy. I hear that most of police training (hours-wise) is based on gun safety, understanding the protocols and procedures of being a police officer, and how to handle guns. (Message me if I'm wrong)
I would not remove those important aspects from the training, but simply balance them out with the training ideas I mentioned above. Obviously, individuals become police officers, and not all individuals in America are anti-racist. Not all individuals in America can handle the pressure of high-stress situations. Not all individuals in America should be trusted with guns. Period.
I want all police officers to know how to de-escalate dangerous situations and/or situations that are with someone not in their right mind (due to drugs, anger, mental health issues, etc.) and bring about a peaceful solution without having to arrest (or forcibly arrest) people.
I want all police officers to have diversity classes that discuss how racism is viewed in America, how systematic it is, and how to work through racist thoughts and fears from both the white and People of Color perspectives. I also want diversity classes to include religious differences, LGBTQ+ information, how to identify mental health or disabilities in potential suspects or criminals (because that will change how the police should interact with them), and more.
I also would like some way for the police academy to have racism tests for its potential new officers. I'm not sure how that could be possible or what that would even look like, but it's an idea. I'll write more about that idea in the future. Maybe psychologists have already done tests regarding this that the police could use. (just spitballing ideas here)
Create a Mandatory Data Base about All Police Officers in the U.S.
This mandatory data base would be focused on providing updated information about every cop in America. It would provide information about cops' previous jobs and information from their previous jurisdictions, which would be helpful if said cop is moving from one jurisdiction to another (and possibly becoming a "gypsy cop").
Tip: look up what gypsy cops are. They are bad news.
This data base would provide information from their police academy days and all other reports they submitted as cops. It would include information about what the officers above them think about the cop's conduct as a police officer.
This data base should be available for upper law enforcement officers, the FBI, and other approved crime units in the U.S. to help oversee and check up on the state of individual cops and their jurisdictions in America. Based on a couple of John Oliver videos about policing in the United States, information about cops is not organized and it leads to problems in finding and getting rid of bad cops AND doesn't help the FBI when they try to thoroughly investigate bad situations.
Get Rid of Civil Asset Forfeiture
Civil asset forfeiture is when the police can arrest someone's items or property without a criminal charge/warrant because they believe it is linked to a crime. The burden of proof for those items' innocence (usually money, cars, or even a house) falls upon the owner of the property.
I want you to watch the following video, which provides a pro-civil asset forfeiture and an anti-civil asset forfeiture view on this topic. I'm anti-civil asset forfeiture because it is abused WAY too much by the police all over the U.S.
Civil Asset Forfeiture: An Overview and Conversation (POLICYbrief) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HM92ccVQdRE
You can also watch this John Oliver video about Civil Asset Forfeiture in America. It is R-rated because of language and probably some sexual aspects, too. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kEpZWGgJkshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kEpZWGgJks
The John Oliver video will give you a more wholehearted argument against civil forfeiture with examples. It was created in 2014 and as far as I'm aware, civil forfeiture is still legal and used in most, if not ALL, of the United States.
Get Rid of Mandatory Minimums
Mandatory minimums are too high, get rid of the judge's ability to be a fair and ethical judge (because they have to enforce mandatory minimums), and the mandatory minimums for most crimes do not match the crime that was committed. Getting rid of mandatory minimums can help judges be free to make calls based on each individual's situation and the crime that was committed.
Mercy and justice are not enemies - they are supposed to be a dynamic duo in our justice system, but mandatory minimums have outlawed mercy in the court rooms of America.
Watch the following John Oliver video (again, it's R-rated for language and inappropriate sexual jokes sometimes, too) to learn more about this problem that has been plaguing America for a couple of decades now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDVmldTurqk
Let me be crystal clear: Crimes should be punished. But the way our justice system is punishing criminals right now is not just.
We also don't have an adequate prison REFORM system and we have laws in our country that make it legal to discriminate against criminals who have already served their due time in jail for crimes they committed years ago. Since prison reform is not a part of this topic specifically, I'll write another article about that later.
Lower the Price to Pay off Municipal Violations
For people who have money, it's not a problem to pay off a simple speeding ticket, or parking violation. For the poor, it becomes near impossible to pay off a municipal violation. . . which leads to more poverty and heartbreak for those individuals - maybe even time in jail.
Watch the John Oliver video about Municipal Violations to see what I'm talking about: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0UjpmT5noto
De-Militarize the Police
The police have become more militarized since 9-11. Police should not be able to have tanks, larger than life vehicles that look like monster trucks, or high-grade weapons. I realize this might be annoying, haha, but yes, I'm going to reference another John Oliver video about Police Militarization. His humor and jokes are a bit crude, but his research? Spot on.
The following John Oliver video about police militarization does include information about Ferguson, MO. Just a heads up. (I have a lot of thoughts about Ferguson, MO too and what happened in the Micheal Brown case, but that's not a discussion for here. I'm trying to stay on topic haha)
Encourage/Make Police Officers Hang Out with the People they Police
I'm not sure if I would make this mandatory or not, but I think all police officers should do their best to hang out with the people in their jurisdictions both in their uniforms but also in plain clothes. It's good to build trust with the people you work to protect. A lot of police officers already do this, and I know that police jurisdictions have ways that they encourage (maybe even force) police officers to hang out and build relationships with people in their area.
The reason why I'm not sure if I would make it mandatory is because it's kind of like forcing someone to go on a mission trip. Yeah, they could be converted to a deeper level of faith with Jesus by the end of the trip, but they also might ruin the trip for the other kids and make the trip less powerful for the kids who actually care.
See what I mean?
So that's an idea, and I'll come back to it if I think of anything different.
Make Body Cameras and Vehicle Cameras Mandatory for All Police
Let's use the technology available to us to hold our officers in uniform accountable. I recently heard of an incident when a body camera was not able to catch video footage of a shooting because the camera was knocked off in a struggle between the police and citizen. That's why I think vehicle cameras should be mandatory too, one in the front of the vehicle and one in the back of the vehicle.
You, my dear friend, have been a trooper for reading all of this.
I hope I've backed up my ideas with enough sound, logical arguments and facts to convince you that my thesis is correct.
There are so many problems with policing, mass incarceration, the prison system, and more in America. I'm so grateful you've read this whole article so that you can have some resources already here, at your fingertips, ready for you to explore. I'm trying to help you not have to do all the "heavy lifting".
I want you to be a critical thinker, but I don't want you to be paranoid and think you'll never find the truth - or the right way to advocate a better America.
I want you to see that being a critical thinker and being open to the idea that you're not the smartest person on said subject matter will help you grow in maturity, humility, wisdom, and appropriate action.
Be critical of the news sources you trust. Find the truth, because it is out there. Double check the statistics you're hearing on the news (usually they get them wrong). Trust the truth once you find it. And be gentle with others who don't believe in the same things you do. Jesus said to love one another. He said to love our enemies. He said to be friends with people different than us.
Basically, I'm asking you to work harder at finding the truth and then supporting change that promotes the dignity of each human being. Being a critical thinker and social justice advocate takes work. It takes patience. It takes PRAYER. It takes Jesus, Our Savior, to enact any real change. Just keep growing and going, okay? Okay :)
So love one another, be a critical thinker, and pray for me as I continue learning and advocating for what I see as the next best step.
P.S. I'm not trying to slam the good police officers with my ideas for reform. Good police officers have always been in America. But we need more anti-racist, pro-life, pro-black lives and pro-people of color police officers in America ---- and we need other reforms to help all people in America not be devalued by bad practices and the bad officers who are out there in uniform that never should have been in uniform in the first place.