Updated: Sep 18
From the voices of the masses, a call has emerged: Defund the police. Defunding the police, the redirection of government-provided law enforcement money is vehemently requested in response to police brutality’s appalling display in various incidents in the United States. However, defunding the police is not the solution, and limiting our police force’s financial resources will lead to damaging repercussions.
Sadly, the issue of police brutality and mishandling situations is not a new topic. However, as described by NBC News in 2014, studies comparing well-funded departments with ill-funded departments show that a police force with underpaid cops is more likely to do a worse job or behave with more violence. It explains that police workers who are paid less due to lower budgets have to work longer. Some even have to find additional jobs, often causing them to be tired and strained or less able to control their instinctive reaction to stress. Even more so, when a police budget is cut, implicit bias training is the first to go. Cops train to handle tough situations, but they are still human. Although not all cops make the same grave errors as some of their colleagues, reducing their paychecks is likely to raise police brutality incidents.
As in any other organization, reform is possible. The American police force has made some inexcusable missteps, but that does not mean the whole country should condemn the entire workforce. If law enforcement were to be defunded, there would be no hope for positive reform. By taking away their supply of money, paychecks, and overall funding, the public would be telling the police force there is no hope for them to change. Punishing the group will not change the actions of the individual. When no person believes in you, what motive do you have to try to improve?
Furthermore, the effects of defunded police forces can already be seen. As people began to emerge from the strict quarantine of the spring into an uneasy summer, murder rates in numerous large American cities rose. However, unlike the normal trend, these rates rose while other crime rates dropped. The New York Times discussed this with many experts. Some theorize that a “loss of trust in law enforcement” could lead to a reduced number of emergency calls and more widespread attempts for an individual to try and handle a dangerous situation themselves. While many of the study cities have yet to defund their police, the spread of distrust and anger directed towards police departments is quickening and will likely spur more departments to lose funding. People need to trust that their law enforcement will protect them; otherwise, the people themselves will suffer. Richard Rosenfeld, a criminology and criminal justice professor at the University of Missouri, says that the urban police forces are feeling a possible “diminished legitimacy”. People have alienated law enforcement, which could be a leading cause of extreme crime and public feelings of unsafety.
Amid the spreading sense of reduced safety, gun sales have sky-rocketed. According to statistics collected by Fox News, over 2 million people have registered as first-time gun owners in the past few months. This evidence points strongly to a growing mass of American people who do not feel safe; there is a widespread unease strong enough to cause people to make the first move towards taking criminal or violent matters into their own hands. The surge in first-time gun owners suggests a rise in the desire for self-protection, rather than police aid through a 9-1-1 call.
A change needs to be made, but that change cannot be defunding the police. Officers need more programming and training, which they won’t get if the police force’s budget faces a dramatic cut. For a positive change to happen, we as citizens cannot metaphorically spit in the face of law enforcement. Instead of ripping apart a system causing problems, we should work together to create better training, a better protocol, and a better society with any systemic racism in our rearview mirror.