Is Minneapolis right diverting $8M from police to other programs?
- The death of George Floyd sparked outrage throughout the United States, from protests to civil unrest in all states.
- “Defund the police” supports the redirecting of funds from the police into other government agencies, like social service to improve overall “mental health, addiction, and homelessness.” It does not mean to eradicate the police force.
- According to Mapping Police Violence, police have killed 986 people in 2020, and of those, “Black people have been 28% of those despite being 13% of the population.”
- Thursday December 10, Minneapolis City Council agreed to transfer $8 million from the police department to violence prevention. Instead of labeling their move “defund the police,” they have taken to a new slogan “Safety for All.”
- Bob Kroll, president of Minneapolis’ Police Officers Federation, replied that the department will be “seriously harmed” with the new agreement, stating, “The number of working officers is the lowest it’s been in 50 years. Violent crimes are approaching records levels. Our officers are severely overworked… and cannot keep the public safe with these cuts.”
Police reform, particularly within the context of race relations, is important to many Americans, and the city of Minneapolis is right to divert funds from the police budget to other services, particularly in the wake of the slaying of George Floyd. The city is right to do this, even in the face of a rise in crime.
Frankly, policing just doesn’t work well enough, and so it is time to try a different approach. The United States spends billions of dollars each year on policing, yet more than fifteen thousand people were killed by gun violence last year alone. The United States ranks amongst the highest in the world in terms of arrests and incarcerations, yet violent crime continues. To perpetuate the same system would be ineffective and dangerous to those who are most often negatively impacted, namely communities of color.
With fewer funds going to the police department, Minneapolis and other cities to follow can invest more in programs that actually work and target many of the root causes of crime. Much of the money removed from the Minneapolis police department budget will now funnel to mental health services and violence prevention programs. Mental health is known to be a significant factor in crime and violence. By assigning mental health professionals to respond to mental health crises, rather than police with guns drawn, the city will reduce the levels of police violence. By focusing on transformative justice over an ever increasingly militaristic police force to act as a backstop against crime, the city of Minneapolis is taking a bold step toward progress.
Policing in the US, Minneapolis in particular, has a damaged reputation; that much is clear. Much of it is self-inflicted, and much is imposed onto it by both media and activists. But Minneapolis’ early knee-jerk reaction in pledging to ‘dismantle’ their police department followed by the recent vote to redirect $8+ million away from the police budget is misguided.
While the vast majority of Americans recognize there needs to be change concerning police unions, militarization and qualified immunity, they also realize that defunding the departments is the wrong approach. In Minneapolis, fully half of black residents polled don’t support reducing the police force's size. And though they do support redirecting funds, that will directly impact the size of the force. The national average length for police training in the US is under 700 hours. Rather than defunding police, cities should be investing in better and longer police training to weed out people like Derek Chauvin and to ensure officers are stable, well-trained, and attuned to their communities.
Nationally, crime rates have increased in 2020 due to both coronavirus and lack of support for police departments. For example, Minneapolis carjackings are up over 500% compared to 2019, in part due to more than 100 officers seeking disability for PTSD in the wake of George Floyd and little backing from elected officials.
Media and activists who claim a desire to help minority communities show their bias when they refuse to acknowledge that even locals don’t support their extreme efforts. Minority and specifically black communities have many issues that need addressing. Reducing police presence by reducing their budget is the wrong way to help.