Relentless protests for well over two weeks, in the wake of George Floyd’s death—and even his after his final memorial service on Tuesday—is evidence the movement sparked by his horrendous killing is showing no signs of letting up.
Since all the officers were eventually arrested and charged, one with secondary murder and manslaughter, and the others with aiding and abetting in second-degree murder, it was assumed the protests would wane. But what began as a call for the arrest of the officers involved became a demand for changes in policing here in America.
Indeed, there is a growing call among protesters, and many who support alternatives to policing, to defund the police. This isn’t a new call, but up to now, that call was barely a murmur. Now, it is a howl.
It is very important that calls for defunding the police not be confused with calls proposing that police forces be disbanded altogether. Defunding doesn’t mean police services will no longer exist. It means police budgets would be reduced, and the funds saved redirected to improving social services in communities, especially in poor, marginalized areas where much of the policing in America occurs.
For years sociologists have argued that society should focus on, and correct, the issues that spawn crime and create the necessity for building prisons and intense policing in marginalized communities.
The communities where over-policing usually occurs are characterized by large, mostly poor black populations with high unemployment, low income, poor healthcare, domestic violence, sub-par and overcrowded housing, and high incidences of drug use and mental health problems.
Like the sociologists, citizens calling for defunding the police force, want to see less city and county budgets going to policing, and larger budgets dedicated to improving the quality of life in these communities. This is proven to serve as a deterrent to crime and would require less policing, similarly to how it works in the suburbs.
American suburbs are not characterized by police mobile and foot patrol on every street, or frequent incidents of police accosting residents standing in groups or simply walking down a street. The sounds of police sirens are rare, and incidents of police brutality against residents, even rarer.
The reason for less policing in the suburbs is that most residents are employed with satisfactory living wages, there are good public schools, decent healthcare, parks and other recreational facilities for teenagers, almost no need for people to peddle drugs to make a living, and relatively little stress from the inability to provide for their families.
It’s generally accepted that communities with fewer social problems are better equipped to protect themselves with community patrolling and require less formal policing patrols.
Better socially served communities also reduce the need for high funding of city and county police forces to hire more police officers, and purchase more police equipment, vehicles, etc.
Contrary to the arguments being made by those opposed to defunding the police, defunding doesn’t mean communities won’t have police services. This is an absurd interpretation. Police are needed to maintain an orderly society, but allowing the police to be the overpowering response to societal issues, much of which they are ill-equipped to handle, often leads to forceful response and brutal police actions against residents.
History recalls during the era of slavery in America, especially in the south, policing was used mainly for controlling slaves, and recapturing those that escaped. After slavery was abolished policing was used to aggressively enforce Jim Crow laws during the bitter era of racial segregation.
Segregated communities were mainly poor, lacking necessary social services, and anger was mutual between police and residents, and policing typically brutal. Unfortunately, it seems some police officers today are socialized to function as if they are policing segregated communities—using brutality as their preferred method of enforcing the law against people living in poor black and brown communities.
This is 2020. Time has changed. There’s no need to apply this intense type of police brutality to control residents in any community. Legislators need to get to work putting funding in communities But there’s an urgent need to improve the quality of social services in several communities. There’s strong reason to believe, and evidence to indicate, that if minority communities have better social services and quality of life for residents, there’ll likely be less need for heavy policing. This outcome would provide justification for reducing, defunding, the budgets of most police departments.