Greetings and Salutations;
America is going through a terrible time just now, with huge protests all across the country (and even spreading out into the world) over the senseless murder of George Floyd. One of the major themes that has arisen is the slogan “Defund the Police”. Alas, there seems to be a LOT of ignorance, and confusion about what this means.
The Right-Wing is framing this as proof that the Liberals/Conservatives want to destroy the rule of law in society, by eliminating the guardians of that law. They are beating that dead horse into a pulp, of course, and using this ignorance to inflame the emotions of their base.
So..what are a broad spectrum of people in America actually wanting to see happen? The LEOs (Law Enforcement Organizations) in America have evolved over the years in very negative directions. It used to be that a large percentage of the police were residents of the area they patrolled. They were looking at people they knew, by first name, their neighbors. So, while there were still instances of abuse, they were far less common. It is more of a challenge to abuse people you live with, know personally, and see in the grocery store! Over time though, in more and more cases, the police became an outside force, being bused into an area to maintain “Law and Order”. It was no longer their neighbors, but, faceless strangers they were working with. It is far easier to dehumanize people one does not know…
In addition, the military, for reasons of its own, started distributing, for free, the equipment they had on hand to the local police departments. This resulting in the local police ending up with a lot of really cool toys. Since they had this equipment, they really wanted to use it…so, we saw the growth of heavily armored, masked people, carrying heavy weapons, and driving around in military vehicles. Think of what this does to the mindset of the average person… When all dressed up in the gear, they WILL start thinking of themselves as soldiers. This attitude is reenforced by the constant references to the “War on Crime”, the “War on Drugs”, the “War on Terrorism”. Why is this a problem? Think about what the job of the soldier is. In general, it is to go onto a battlefield, find the enemy, kill them, and destroy the resources they use to support their fight. Too many police have become “Wannabe Rambos”, and look upon the Streets as a battle ground and everyone who is not a cop is an enemy… Adding to this attitude is the fact that the training of police officers these days in America is pitiful. They go to an academy to train them to be officers for anywhere from one to six months. Then, they are dumped on the street, sometimes without even the probationary period supervised by a senior officer. Finally, that training is flawed, in that for far too long, thanks to the work of one man, the training of LEOs all over the country taught them that the way to resolve a conflict situation was with deadly force…not deescalation.
Another issue that has affected the entire force is that for the past 15 years or more, there has been a real push by White Supremacist groups to get their members on the police force. The proceeding link is to an excellent article about this, and the FBI warnings of the dangers of this trend. We, as a society, hope that the police will be objective, and even-handed in applying the law. However, as statistics show, this is not the case. In spite of statistics showing that people of color are far less likely to be involved in crime the percentages of the community of color stopped as suspects, and imprisoned is rather higher than that of whites. Even worse, we have seen a huge number of people of color killed by police, in spite of being no threat, and unarmed. The straw that is generating these protests is, indeed, personified by the murder of Mr. Floyd. Whether or not a given officer is an openly racist White Supremacist, though, there seems to be a disturbingly widespread image of people of color being bigger, more dangerous, and more likely to be armed that whites. As for this point…look at the killing of Tamir Rice Here was a 12 year old boy, with a toy gun, who was shot down within seconds of the cops showing up. Time and time again, we see situations where people of color are shot down by the cops, even when unarmed and following directions, and, white shooters who have just murdered many people are talked down, escorted to jail, and treated with respect.
Over time, Society has dumped more and more responsibilities on the LEOs without providing either consideration if they are the best organization to deal with these issues, or, providing adequate funding and training to give them a chance to deal with the situation in a reasonable manner. For example, in the day, the police were charged with the duty to uphold the law. NOW, they are expected to deal with domestic disputes, mental health issues, homelessness, and a number of other issues that have almost NO connection with law enforcement. It seems that in most cases, the result is “Arrest everyone and let the system sort it out”. Unfortunately too many of the mental health calls result in a dead civilian, whose only crime was that his mind was out of kilter.
Now, all that having been said…let me get to the point of this article. What are the goals of the “Defund Police” movement?
- Remove ALL military gear from the LEOs. They should be limited to vests only, and not allowed to dress like storm troopers on the way to destroy a rebel base.
- Add organizations within the Law Enforcement organizations that have the specialized training to deal with conflict resolution, either in domestic situations, or mental health issues. These folks should be using deescalation and not simply conflict and fear to deal with the situation.
- America spends far more on LEOs than on social programs and such that would help eliminate the stresses that bring on violence, criminal behavior, etc. So, the budgets should be audited by an independent, forensic auditor, and some of the flow of cash should be diverted to programs such as I have mentioned above.
- More attention should be paid to making sure that LEOs come from the neighborhoods they will patrol. The reasons for this have been touched on above.
- The police departments MUST work to purge themselves of the bigoted, racist, white supremacist members of the force.
- Here is an excellent article that touches on some other aspects of the call to “Defund”.
- Get police back to the mind-set that they exist to “Protect and Serve”, and are NOT an occupying military force.
No one, short of a small percentage of very radicalized people, is calling for the LEOs to be disbanded and eliminated. However, most Americans realize that it is past time to implement some real changes, and, keep an eye out to make sure that the LEOs do not slip back into the old, bad habits.
God Help Us All
Bee Man Dave