Defunding the Police: Why Should it Happen?

Maeve Healy

Trigger Warning: This article includes information pertaining to suicide, addiction, and police brutality which may upset some readers.

If you happen to keep in touch with current events, chances are you have probably heard the term “defund the police” a time or two on social media, television, or even in your conversations with family and friends. The term is blunt, and to many people, the idea seems like a straight pathway to American anarchism; however, these assumptions are simply not true. Marginalized Americans – and Americans in general – will benefit from defunding the police. 

Though the terminology makes the idea seem radical, it’s really not. According to The Brookings Press, defunding the police simply means “reallocating or redirecting funding away from the police department to other government agencies” that tend to be better equipped for certain situations than the police. To be a member of the police force, trainees usually tend to have to go through just 647 hours of basic training, leaving new members on the force unknowing of how to deal with specific situations such as a person having suicidal thoughts or a person with a drug addiction. Christian Sierra, a suicidal teen, was shot by police after his friends called for help. Unfortunately, Mr. Sierra’s story isn’t an anomaly: the Washington Post notes that of the 1,000 fatal shootings every year, approximately 100 of them are suicidal people shot by members of the police force. A suicidal person is likely to be helped better by a person who has psychology training, so considering that a psychologist tends to take anywhere from four to eight years to become a therapist they would simply be much better prepared to deal with these kinds of situations than an officer with less than 700 hours of training. For those addicted to drugs, doctors specialized in addiction recovery would be much more qualified to help than a police officer. According to the Bureau of Justice, drug arrests rose significantly between the years of 1999 and 2007, but during the same years drug overdoses nearly tripled. On the other hand, according to a 16 year study completed in 2006 by the National Library of Medicine, the relapse rate after completing a rehabilitation program dropped by up to 80%. How can the police expect to help stop the drug epidemic if it’s clearly shown that arresting people isn’t working? The answer is simple: they cannot. Public funds should instead be allocated to doctors and rehabilitation programs to help stop the drug epidemic.

The police force kills on average 930 people a year. 930 lives lost to senseless violence and under-training. 826 people have been murdered by police already this year, disproportionately affecting the black community. 26% of these victims are black whereas only 13% of the American population is black, thus showing some sort of racial injustice that can be unpacked by oppression leading back to slavery. The modern effects of this oppression include the fact that black neighborhoods are over policed in comparison to white neighborhoods which makes them appear to have higher rates of crime, black individuals receive higher sentences on average, are also disproportionately incarcerated, and thus are more likely to suffer at the hands of the law. All of these issues point to giant problems in the American law enforcement system. The issue with over policing is that black neighborhoods have been unable to prosper due to the unfair subjection to law they have faced; and the disproportionate mass incarceration of black people forces many black individuals into poverty, and continuing the 400 year long cycle of oppression.
Rather than spending $100 billion on the annual police budget, why not give equitable funds to workers who are better served to deal with certain situations than the police? Why allow addicts to continue relapsing when arrested? Why allow mentally ill individuals to suffer at the hands of the police? Why continue to allow the law enforcement system to hurt the black community instead of investing in them when their message is “to serve and protect”? Redirecting funds from America’s police departments would make our citizens and our communities safer, not more dangerous.

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