As we enter a new year and a new political season, calls to “defund the police” from elected officials across the country will no doubt continue. There are many reasons why defunding the police is a bad idea, but we wanted to highlight a few of the most important reasons to keep in mind as these discussions continue.
Reduces support for training
Many issues of police-involved violence occur because officers are not properly trained on when and how to use their equipment. Defunding the police takes away the resources that are needed to make sure officers are properly trained on things like the use of force continuum and de-escalation techniques.
D.J. Jordan and Scott Martin, two public officials in Virginia summed it up this way in an op-ed for Potomac Local News: Police brutality usually occurs when overly aggressive policing tactics are implemented in dramatic fashion, or with evil intent.
Although police abuse of power is rare overall, just one time is too many and enough to cause years of unnecessary scrutiny from the media and politicians with anti-police agendas.
“Good policing requires a commitment to robust training that must be ongoing. This requires funding,” Jordan and Martin wrote.
The less training is available, the more likely we are to see officers relying on their instincts instead of on best practices developed over decades of experience by teachers and trainers.
Hinders officer recruitment and retention
This one might seem obvious but it’s worth stating explicitly: lower police budgets mean fewer police officers keeping our streets and communities safe. But it’s not only that — defunding the police places a greater strain on existing officers and reduces the likelihood that they’ll quit or perform their jobs ineffectively because they’re burned out.
An article in the Washington Courier-Herald laid out what this looks like on the ground in Seattle, where the police department’s staff is smaller than it was in 1990, even though the city’s population has increased by more than 40% over the past few decades. And, a proposal from the Mayor’s Office could reduce the police force even further.
“Something has to give, and that something has been answering 911 calls and routine policing,” business and community leader Don C Brunell wrote in the Courier-Herald article. “If that trend persists, it will ruin cities making them unsafe and unappealing. People and businesses will leave.”
As you might imagine, the prospect of more cuts is cause for concern among the city’s law enforcement leaders when it comes to ensuring community safety and providing a high level of service to everyone in the city.
“I also need officers that we can routinely rotate out when you have officers that had to deal with demonstrations on a nightly basis with very little time off,” Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz told KTTH radio. “And the more stress we put on those officers, it can create some adverse effects.”
Allows dangerous, violent criminals to win
Finally, perhaps the most compelling reason why defunding the police is a bad idea is that it lets the bad actors in our society put everyone else in harm’s way.
Police officers around the country keep us safe from drugs, violence, gangs, domestic abuse, and myriad other threats to the American way of life. No other branch of government or social service agency can do the job in quite the same way.
It’s hard to see the consequences of defunding the police until it happens, at which time it’s already too late. As the new year begins, join us in the call to push for common-sense police reforms that will make our officers stronger, keep our communities safer, and restore the respect that police deserve.
Rather than “defunding” the police, the focus for reform in 2021 and beyond should be improving things like professionalism, readiness, attention to detail, and discipline. Let’s dive into some ways that funding could be re-allocated in a more constructive way to reduce the number of police-involved deaths while still giving police the latitude they need to do their jobs day in and day out.