Police officers across the nation have been targeted with both hate and respect – but mostly hate – this past few days after the killing of George Floyd, a black man, by a white officer. For years, there have been protests and demands to cut funding to police departments, and now, even with rioters out of control, burning businesses, killing and attempting to kill innocent people and cops, the demand has grown even stronger. Surprisingly, however, some opponents to such budget cuts are now changing their opinions, and certain cities and states have announced plans or intentions to reduce department funding. This author, on the other hand, would like to argue the opposite and say our law enforcement needs more help, not less.
Black Lives Matter (BLM) has a petition in circulation to defund or at least severely reduce funding to police departments. The reasoning is steeped in fear. It is also seen as a way to get more money into helping black communities. In part, the petition claims:
“Black communities are living in persistent fear of being killed by state authorities like police, immigration agents or even white vigilantes who are emboldened by state actors. According to the Urban Institute, in 1977, state and local governments spent $60 billion on police and corrections. In 2017, they spent $194 billion. A 220 percent increase. Despite continued profiling, harassment, terror and killing of Black communities, local and federal decision-makers continue to invest in the police, which leaves Black people vulnerable and our communities no safer.”
First, it is essential to put a perspective on the example above. A 220% increase in departmental funding, but consider that the comparison is from 1977, nearly half a century earlier. In 1977, the U.S. population was 220.2 million compared to approximately 325.1 million in 2017. The median household income was $13,572 in 1977 compared to the national median family income in 2017, which is about $61,372. When the population grows, the need for more police officers also grows. Population and cost of living have increased quite a bit in 40 years, so that is a very misleading comparison.
Who is Killing Black People?
Although the argument against defunding law enforcement is not motivated by racial bias, the recent calls from BLM and others to abolish police or cut their funding needs to be addressed. Currently, the foundation or basis for these demands is supposedly about the mistreatment of blacks by the police. Here are a few more statistics to clear up the disingenuous narrative currently being pushed.
According to National Review Magazine: “In 2018, where the homicide victim was black, the suspected killer also was 88 percent of the time. And this is not an exceptional situation. From 1976 to 2005, 94 percent of black victims were killed by other African Americans.” When it comes to blacks being killed by cops, Statista.com published a graph that clearly shows from 2017 through 2020, more whites were killed by police than any other race.
Critics have argued that even with an increase in police budgets, reform has been slow going; some say they have seen no improvement. New York City especially has been demanding budget cuts. Mayor Bill de Blasio said: “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows,” and accused the police department of being more of a “military organization” that “empowers police over communities of color.”
But, where would we be without a police force?
Without Order, There is Chaos
There are bad apples in every tree, and that includes police, military, and government – though most people might agree that finding the good political apples is much more challenging than finding the rotten ones. Police reform hasn’t been going quick enough, but it takes time. Who will you call when someone is breaking into your house if we don’t have law enforcement? Right now, there are town “militias,” if you will, patrolling streets, carrying guns, to protect small businesses. They do this because local police have their hands full with the looting and rioting. Without police officers, this would not only be an everyday way of life, but there would also be a lot more people taking the law into their own hands.
A recent discussion on Facebook described the fear of the town militias: “[A] bunch of white guys walking around with guns. How would you feel if it was brothers out there?” Without a police force, more people will be purchasing guns and other weapons to protect themselves: inexperienced, scared people with deadly weapons. Without order, there is chaos. In many instances, just the presence of a police car or officer nearby will deter someone from committing a crime.
Who will be in charge of keeping the peace? Who will put their lives on the line to secure your safety? As harsh as this may sound, we should not demolish the police force because a community fears them. Not all police are racist or so drunk on power they seek to overpower and control others. BLM, in its petition, suggests the money from the budget cuts “… could go towards building healthy communities, to the health of our elders and children, to neighborhood infrastructure, to education, to childcare, to support a vibrant Black future.”
Law enforcement is for all the people, no matter their race. Taxpayers, of all colors, pay for such protection. Yet, we should disassemble an organization meant to protect citizens and use that money to empower a specific community? The focus needs to be driven away from racism and concentrated more on creating a better system – for everyone. The job of a police officer is not an easy one, and each day they walk out of their homes and say goodbye to their families; they are aware that a simple traffic stop could end their lives.
There still must be reform in law enforcement, especially when it comes to mental stability and dangerous personality traits. Better and more thorough vetting should be done before someone is hired onto the force. Because their jobs are so dangerous and frustrating, a better mental health system should be put into place. Instead of cutting funding, or giving it to a community, perhaps rearranging the budget to allocate more toward these things might be the wiser choice.
Comparing our police to a “militant force” is also sensationalized. Today’s law enforcement does look a bit scary, but look at what they are sometimes going up against. They need to be prepared to defend themselves against criminals who, at times, have even more powerful weapons.
Defunding or abolishing the police is not the answer. Throwing us back to the Old West or even earlier will not help the fight against racism. The past few days’ riots, needless killings, and hundreds of businesses, memorials, and other buildings damaged or destroyed is a clear and sharp demonstration of our need for law enforcement.
Read more from Kelli Ballard.
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