Police are constituted bodies of individuals empowered by the government tasked to enforce law and order, ensure citizens’ safety, possessions, and health, and prevent civil disorder and crimes that may put the lives of citizens in danger. Their constitutional powers include the use of force legitimized by the government via monopoly on violence and arresting those who seem to endanger others or engage in illegal activities (Pearce and Simpson, 2022). Over the years, police have been involved in activities that have resulted in the deaths of individuals in unclear circumstances, such as the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2020, which attracted protests termed Black Lives Matter in the streets and on the social media platforms. Defunding the police remains the only viable solution that would end police brutality and inject financial resources into activities that benefit the community, such as housing, mental health, and social activities. Everybody has been taught to equate policing to public safety, but unfortunately, it has become a punitive law enforcement model which has brought more terror than safety to individuals and communities of a different color. The police system has turned into a racist system that disproportionately targets individuals of color for imprisonment, violence, and death (Nordberg et al., 2018). There is a need to stop investing heavily in incarceration and police and instead channel those resources into community-centered activities such as schools and health care that keep communities safe.
Police departments are historically violent and oppressive, and for the purpose of reducing overall crime and violent treatment against people of color, there is a need to defund them. The police department has never become a neutral institution that can guarantee the safety of people on an equal basis without any form of discrimination and bias. Initially, the police department was more of a slave patrol that was formulated to secure capital for white individuals. In most cases, oppression has been directed at black people has a way of cracking down on protests and waging war on drugs. With the continuous funding to the police department from the state, they have been able to outfit themselves with extra military equipment, which has resulted in increased police power and developed an attitude that they are at war with individuals and communities that seem to be against them which may turn out to violence (Vanecko, 2020). There are no notable changes within the police departments in that they still act and handle issues similar to what they did in the past. In the past, police departments were established with the aim of protecting wealthy individuals and their wealth from the poor, who were considered dangerous and capable of doing anything to satisfy their needs. In most cases, the poor individuals were the blacks, marking the beginning of racialized society. According to Eaglin (2020), millions of people of color have been put in prison, depriving or limiting their constitutional right to vote, access to education, employment, housing, or those privileges that are automatically accessible to white people. McLeod et al. (2020) suggest that 13% of the United States population comprises African-Americans, with 23% of their death having been committed by police. The same report argues that black men are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by the police than white, while black women are 1.4 times more than white women, with police being two times more likely to use force on black people than white. There is a perception that black people are more likely to engage in criminal activities such as drug trafficking and distribution or activities that may endanger the lives of others (Farahmand et al., 2020). This perception by the police officers of viewing black as more likely to engage in criminal activities makes them a target for unlawful arrests and treatment. For this reason, defunding the police would result in reduced crimes and few violent activities from the police. Suppose the police are not involved in patrolling minor crimes and only responding to particular significant crimes. In that case, there is the likelihood that there will be few opportunities for police brutality and violence can be experienced.
Police departments and police officer reforms have not worked as many expected. The expectations were that the reforms would change the attitude and behavior of police on how they handle individuals, particularly of color, in a more humane manner without violating any individual rights. Many resources have been used in acquiring body cameras and conducting training exercises, all of which have ended in nothing positive. The body cameras were introduced as a way to hold police officers accountable for their actions, but unfortunately, these cameras are shut off and have not resulted in any less violent behavior. Training on implicit discrimination and bias for police has not provided any positive change. Duffy-Jaeger (2022) consider the Minneapolis police department that has received much funding from the state to hold reforms. The reforms focused on procedural justice and also conducted training for implicit mindfulness and bias. The police department was expected to embrace community policing, ban policing activities that might harm citizens, and implore the use of body cameras to monitor problematic police officers, but with all these kinds of training and reforms, people like Gorge Floyd ended up dying in the hands of the police. With all this funding to carry out police reforms, one would be bothered to know whether the community is benefiting from it and why the state should keep funding police department reforms, yet there are no positive outcomes. Duffy-Jaeger (2022) argues that police departments use reforms as an excuse to acquire a bigger budget from the state to enable them to maintain power and acquire resources that they consider beneficial to them. For this reason, police reforms do not wholly change the police departments, and it’s much more challenging to hold them accountable for any misappropriation of resources. Defunding the police remains a vital and beneficial idea, and instead, these funds should be invested in activities that add value to the community.
There are activities currently being carried out by police of which they are not supposed to do as part of their responsibility due to lack of training or because the issues may be minor. Sometimes these issues/activities require the attention of the police, and more resources may be needed to handle them, which are not their responsibilities. Police currently attend to situations such as mental illness calls, domestic disputes, noise-related cases, and other non-criminal practices in addition to their actual violations, such as murder (Eaglin, 2020). Cases like mental illness, police lack skills and knowledge on how they can help such individuals. Generally, the community may view the police as capable of solving all the problems they could be facing, which becomes too much and challenging for them. In this case, the police may not take the right decision, which might affect the parties involved. A Times the police may take advantage of the situation and execute their hidden agenda, which may escalate to violence. Situations such as drug addiction, homelessness, and domestic violence are not the responsibilities of the police officers; instead, there are those responsible bodies or institutions responsible for handling these issues. Defunding the police would ensure that they only focus on activities they are accountable for and leave the minor activities to those responsible. Once the police vacate those responsibilities that other institutions or individuals can handle, the responsible individuals will come in and do the necessary. For instance, mental illness calls should be directed to health care facilities, and the housing departments should handle homelessness. In this case, the funding directed to the police department can be invested or used to develop facilities that would benefit the community. Developing and improving the community investment and infrastructure will reduce the need for police (Eaglin, 2020).
There are arguments that cutting the police budget would affect their ability to deliver their mandate and that there are possibilities that civilian injuries and violence would increase. Still, under the same argument, there is a claim that police might turn to civilians whom they are expected to guarantee their safety and take advantage to exploit their financial resources as a way to raise funds to cater for some of the issues such as transport (Fleetwood and Lea, 2022). The claim remains baseless in that by defunding the police, the resources can be invested in activities that would benefit the community or those that would keep the community busy, which keeps them away from crime-related activities. When the crime-related activities are reduced, police will have a limited mandate that only requires limited resources. Defunding the police will also ensure that police focus on activities that are expected, thus leaving other activities to responsible institutions and bodies. Defunding the police will also limit their powers and will therefore act within their limits, which translates to reduced crimes where the community can interact freely with them and co-exist peacefully.
In conclusion, the police department has been the cause of violence within the community, mainly through activities that are illegal or against the wish of the community. For a long, police have been receiving heavy budgets from the state for running their affairs and conducting reforms that would turn it into a better and more friendly police department, but unfortunately, this has not been realized. There have been cases of police brutality mainly targeting people of color that resulted in severe injuries and deaths like George Floyd in 2020. Initially, police departments were formed to protect wealthy individuals and their wealth from those considered dangerous or who would force their way to their wealth. These instances made the police individuals develop attitudes and behaviors against the community’s wishes, which made the community view them as enemies. The constitutional role of the police remains to maintain law and order, which involves guaranteeing the safety of the citizens by taking legal actions such as the arrest of those who seem to endanger others or engage in criminal activities, but this has not been the case. Defunding the police remains the only possible solution to limit their powers, reducing their brutality and racial activities. Defunding the police will also ensure that they focus on their essential responsibilities and leave those that belong to other institutions and bodies. The extra funding to the police department can be invested in activities or projects that benefit the community and would keep them away from crimes. A well-developed community is always busy engaging in activities that add value to them, which results in reduced criminal activities leaving police with limited cases to handle, which only require limited resources.
Duffy-Jaeger, K. E. (2022). Beyond Collaboration: Moving Law Enforcement Reform and Therapeutic Response Towards Long-Term Solution Building for Individuals with Mental, Intellectual, and Behavioral Health Concerns (Doctoral dissertation, Rutgers The State University of New Jersey, Graduate School-Newark).
Eaglin, J. M. (2020). To” Defund” the Police. Stan. L. Rev. Online, 73, 120.
Farahmand, P., Arshed, A., & Bradley, M. V. (2020). Systemic racism and substance use disorders. Psychiatric Annals, 50(11), 494-498.
Fleetwood, J., & Lea, J. (2022). Defunding the police in the UK: Critical questions and practical suggestions. The Howard Journal of Crime and Justice.
McLeod, M. N., Heller, D., Manze, M. G., & Echeverria, S. E. (2020). Police interactions and the mental health of Black Americans: A systematic review. Journal of racial and ethnic health disparities, 7(1), 10-27.
Nordberg, A., Twis, M. K., Stevens, M. A., & Hatcher, S. S. (2018). Precarity and structural racism in Black youth encounter with police. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 35(5), 511-518.
Pearce, J., & Simpson, R. (2022). The role of police in conducting wellness checks: Insight from a study of police data. Police Practice and Research, 23(4), 400-413.
Vanecko, R. (2020). The Chicago Consent Decree and the Fallacy of Police Reform. Available at SSRN 3724453.