Overpoliced, Yet Unsafe: U.S. Cities Should Fund Neighborhood Programs, Not Police Departments

Da’Vonne Duncan

In the Summer of 2020, during the Black Lives Matter protested in Minneapolis, Minnesota following the death of George Floyd. People all over the nation erupted with emotions and demanded U.S. cities defund the police through social media and protest signs and here’s why you should agree with them.

According to Matt Cohen, Senate Republicans argued that the Black Lives Matter movement, increased violence to oppose gun control legislation. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, mentioned that “Black Lives Matter protests and defund the police movements may have led to an additional 1,268 additional deaths last year.” Also, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) mentioned that the escalation of violent crime was an outcome of protests concerning police brutality. Cotton stated, “when you condemn the police…you shouldn’t be surprised that criminals take advantage”. It is important to note that there is no evidence to support both Sen. Grassley and Sen. Cotton’s statements.

Public officials DJ Jordan and Scott Martin mentioned that “good policing requires a commitment to robust training that must that must be ongoing. This requires funding.” According to the National Police Support Fund, the decreased availability of training will possibly mean police officers will rely on their instincts, instead of the best practices they would develop through experience and training over an extended period of time.  The National Police Support Fund says this explains why police brutality has increased since officers are not properly trained on when and how to use their equipment. Also, lower budgets for police departments indicate burnout of existing officers. If this continues to happen, “it will ruin cities making them unsafe and unappealing. People and business will leave.” Mentioned community leader Don C. Brunell.

Republicans and other police support groups may believe that police departments should keep their funding for proper training. However, law enforcement stems from white supremacy, as early as the 1700s. Following the first shipments of Africans to North America, planters wanted to control such a large workforce because they feared rebellion. “By the early 1700s, a comprehensive system of racially directed law enforcement was well on its way to being fully developed,” stated Fountain. This allowed people in power to abuse their authority, just because they were able to. Following Emancipation, the slave patrols were interchanged with the Ku Klux Klan. The psychological effects of white supremacy remained prominent for years to follow by intimidation and surveillance. Over the past 40 years, “drugs have accelerated mass incarceration in the U.S., with African Americans incarcerated at more than five times the rate of white people,” according to the NAACP.

A visit from the Ku Klux Klan

Furthermore, it is proven police training cannot prevent blacks from being killed at disproportional rates, due to subconscious bias. Lopez mentioned, racial disparities are influenced by “socioeconomic factors such as poverty, unemployment, and segregation-that make black Americas much more likely to commit crime than their white counterparts.” Lorie Fridel, a criminologist at the University of South Florida, stated “if some cops automatically consider black men more dangerous, police officers might be more likely to use deadly force against black people that are legally justified but not necessary.” Josh Correll, a psychology professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, discovered that “police officers did a good job of avoiding shooting unarmed targets, but when shooting was warranted officers pulled the trigger more quickly against black suspects than white ones. This suggests that officers exhibit some racial bias in shooting, according to Lopez. Therefore, body cameras will not necessarily prevent an officer from killing someone. For instance, Ray Tensing, a former University of Cincinnati police officer, shot Samuel DuBose, an unarmed, 43-year-old, black man, for not wanting to get out of his car. A senseless act of violence because a police officer did not get his way. After viewing the video, it was apparent that DuBose had not provoked Tensing to use deadly force.

In 2018, the American Public Health Association (APHA) declared that police brutality is a public health issue. The APHA announced, “physical and psychological violence that is structurally mediated by the system of law enforcement results in death, injuries, trauma, and stress.” The APHA pointed out that “at least 1,091 people were killed by law enforcement in the U.S. in 2016”. Also, the APHA noticed a clear connection between death and increased traffic stops.

Collectively, U.S. cities spend approximately 100 million dollars on law enforcement each year. While all the funding goes toward policing, fundamental programs lack investment such as education, healthcare, and housing assistance. Imagine being a minority and nearly all of your tax-paying dollars, are invested into a system based on racist practices and implicit bias. Communities suffer when people do not have access to vital programs, such as healthcare. To continue their availability, capital is key. 13 U.S. cities have already defunded their police departments and the funds are to go toward healthcare. Some of these cities include Portland, Philadelphia, New York City, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, and Austin.

All in all, defunding the police is the effective answer to minimizing police violence regarding people of color and advancing communities. It has been proven that police training and body camera usage will not be an effective alternative, for police officers to use less-lethal weapons. The implicit bias of white officers, believing that black men are dangerous has subjected them to death, even if they are involved in a simple traffic stop. Ultimately, watching Derek Chauvin knelling on George Floyd’s neck for 7 minutes and 46 seconds, hearing Eric Garner say “I can’t breathe, and witnessing Breonna Taylor not get justice, for police officers breaking into her home and killing her, are not enough for police to stop their heinous crimes. Communities must come together, hold law enforcement accountable for their irrational behavior, and demand that police funding needs to be used to improve healthcare systems, education, and other necessary community organizations.

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