Letter to editor: 'Defunding the police' means redistributing resources
Last updated 7/8/2020 at 12:23pm
The following is a response to a letter printed in the June 24, 2020 issue of the Mukilteo Beacon written by Kathy Robinson. The claim that defunding the police will put communities in danger is unfounded and untrue.
I understand that the concept of “defunding the police” might be a new idea to some, but it is really not a radical concept. More so than body camera requirements and diversity training, which I myself once thought were solutions, moving funds from the police budget to more effective programs gets at the root of the public health crisis that is police brutality against Black people.
Consider this (data from the ACLU): 10.3 million arrests are made each year. Of those, only 5% are for safety issues such as murder or rape. The rest are for minor infractions like taking a shopping cart or possessing weed or just being Black, which should not result in arrests in the first place.
This means that more money is being spent arresting people for these small issues, which are generally harmless, than is being spent to arrest murderers and rapists. So, if policing as we know it is not keeping our communities safe – because, as I’m sure you’re aware Kathy, Black and Brown people are not safe from police violence even in their homes – how should we go about spending taxpayer money in a way that actively prevents the need for law enforcement to step in?
For one, we can move money from the police budget into schools. 1.7 million students in the U.S. go to schools with no counselors – but do go to school with police. Three million students in the U.S. go to schools with no nurses – but do go to school with police. Kamiak, from which I just graduated, staffs a police officer but had no full-time mental health counselor.
The money used to pay police officers to handle student issues could be given to those actually trained in this department: Counselors, nurses, social workers, therapists. No bottomless pit here, just the paychecks of underpaid heroes.
Dividing up the different duties police officers are currently tasked with (and distributing funds accordingly) will make life easier for officers and for their communities. The police were never meant to handle mental health issues. They were never meant to handle homelessness. They were certainly never meant to handle student misbehavior.
“Defunding the police” really equates to redistributing responsibility and resources in a manner that more adequately protects and serves the diverse needs of the American people. Saying, “Defund the police” is not proposing that all cops are bad, but rather that the law enforcement system has never shed its origins as a slave patrol unit.
To defund the police is to stop pouring money into a broken machine and start building a better one. When you question whether or not defunding the police will make communities safer, make sure you look outside of your own immediate community to answer that. Ask yourself: Who is paying the price for my safety? And remember that American taxpayers have spent billions of dollars on the police force only to realize that it had little to no effect on crime.