Editorial: “Defund the police” is not controversial

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By The Viewpoints Editorial Board

The phrase “defund the police” has sparked controversy all year.

But is it really that controversial? 

We, the Viewpoints editorial board, believe it is not controversial. It is merely a misunderstanding.

The suggestion to “defund” an entire public service department has generated an intense divisiveness between those who back the blue and those who believe that all lives will matter, only when Black lives matter, too.

The phrase has inspired fear in proponents of status quo policing. Thoughts of resulting violence and lawlessness have shaken suburban America. But a large portion of society has become conscious of the reality that the current state of community policing has disproportionately victimized people of color for a very long time and that something needs to change.

To be clear, defunding the police does not mean abruptly ridding society of all law enforcement. It means to properly fund other local resources and then allocate a more appropriate amount of the local budget to law enforcement.

When the time to decrease funding for elementary schools comes, which one would think would be the most controversial of topics, rarely is there a panic in the community. There are no nationwide rallies in support of the education of children. 

So how controversial is it, really, to argue that funding for services like education should cut into the frequent pay raises at police departments that simply transfer officers with ever-increasing body counts?

The fact is police with minimal social training and a limited education are not necessary in many situations.

“We turn to the police in situations where years of experience and common sense tell us that their involvement is unnecessary, and can make things worse,” Christy Lopez, a columnist and Georgetown University professor, wrote in The Washington Post on June 7.

The function of police has expanded into areas of community care — such as mental health emergencies, homelessness and domestic arguments — that would be better served by community programs which specialize in their respective field. 

Salt Lake City, Utah police shot a 13-year-old autistic boy named Linden Cameron after his mother called 911 because Cameron was having a mental health episode Sept. 4. His disorder caused him to act out and the resulting shooting left him with severe internal damage.

At this point, it is illogical to continue to have police officers answer these calls. It is illogical to continue to fund the militarization of law enforcement departments while homelessness, suicide and overdose deaths skyrocket. 

The results sought in defunding the police, as noted, do not require outlandish reform. They are already in place in American suburbia, where schools are well-funded and competent mental health services often intervene before the formation of a crisis.

The point is to extend these privileges to underserved communities before any more bodies pile up.