A few words on “defunding” police departments…
It seems that I’m worried about something every day…Well, today it is how the discussion about “defunding” police departments will be taken out of context. So here is a short brief on some aspects of the debate over “defunding” police departments.
Many years ago, I had a client who asked me to do some research on creating an industry newsletter for law enforcement on police liability. Some of what I’m relating here is based on that research.
But before I begin, let’s be clear, institutional racism and discrimination in any area of our society are about how we raise and teach our children and how we interact with each other. It is about the expectations we have for each other in a civil society. When leaders lower the bar on respecting the dignity of others and when people are given tacit (or not so tacit) permission to engage in racism and discrimination, reform will be that much more difficult to attain and our lives will be poorer.
There will be those who actually believe the debate is about eliminating police departments (insert heavy sigh here) instead of curtailing the responsibilities heaped on police departments. There will be little that can be said to convince these individuals, who have no real interest in discussions and getting to a meaningful understanding of the concerns about police behavior.
However, for the vast majority of us, I’ve compiled partial lists of issues and organizations that will be part of the “defunding” debate to complement what I have posted earlier.
No discussion about police departments makes sense without a recognition of all the roles that police officers are called upon to play, such as resolving family disputes, moving homeless people into shelters and assisting those with mental and substance abuse issues.
Generally speaking, police officers are seen to have four major responsibilities:
** enforcing laws,
** preventing crimes,
** responding to emergencies, and
** providing support services.
It is no surprise that these broad categories often overlap.
Mistrust of the police already is prompting a renewed discussion of how police enforce laws and prevent crimes. But defunding efforts are not typically aimed at fundamentally altering those two responsibilities. No one has suggested that the nation no longer have a constabulary to enforce the law and make arrests.
Instead, in this context, the debate is typically about tactics (such as choke holds and the use of tear gas etc…). For example, most – if not all – police departments discourage high-speed chases that make for exciting TV shows and movies. The risk to the general population is very high.
Crime prevention is a murkier topic – unless one defines that strictly as foiling an attempt at crime. But that category often includes such activities at nighttime basketball to keep at-risk youths occupied and off the streets.
So, when talking about “defunding,“ I submit that a key question is under what circumstances should the threat of arrest be made? In other words, when should the police be called? When should the police play a secondary and more subtle and discrete role? Or no role at all?
If they are present in a support role or not present at all, will that limit abuse? Where should we reduce the responsibilities on police officers so we no longer have to fund those activities?
There are many many organizations to track in the defunding debate. I’ve listed only a handful of relevant categories to illustrate the breadth of the issues. A simple Internet search for state and local organizations and agencies will generate lists of links to the organizations of specific interest to you locally.
** Educational institutions at all levels,
** State and local public health departments, and
** State and local social service departments and organizations tending to:
* Mental health issues
* Substance Abuse
We already know that any change will begin with the police themselves. So here are links to two unions, which represent the police. Change will be much easier to attain when the police themselves and their representatives acknowledge the need for change.
American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, (AFSCME), which includes police unions
The International Union of Police Associations