The other side of the story.
After the death of George Floyd, people started pushing the movement to defund the police. It seemed like this knee-jerk response would fade, but many cities are actually trying it out. Meanwhile, organizations like the National Police Association are working hard to eliminate the anti-police rhetoric that unnecessarily gives law enforcement a bad name.
There are always two sides to every story, but this is different. Most cops are not looking to harm others, and defunding the police based on the actions of those who abuse their power would leave fewer officers available to respond to emergencies, which would have a negative impact on society.
Non-violent situations can turn violent quickly
Just because a situation starts out non-violent doesn’t mean it won’t escalate into violence quickly. It happens frequently, especially when someone gets emotionally triggered by other people trying to calm them down or talk them out of something.
Being successful in these types of situations often requires being good at hostage negotiation, and unfortunately, the average person won’t have those skills. Still, that’s how many people need to be approached, even when they aren’t taking hostages. Not every police officer is an expert in this area, but many of them are, and they can call in other agencies for additional help when needed.
One of the solutions people have proposed, which is already happening in Seattle, is to send out social workers to deal with low-level, non-violent mental health situations. The idea sounds great on the surface – a team of behavioral experts is dispatched with the police, and after the police assess the situation and determine there is no threat, they leave to do more important work fighting crime while the behavioral experts stay and manage the situation.
There’s only one problem: People are wildly unpredictable and if they’re already having a mental health crisis, they could easily be triggered into reacting with violence at any point in time. This puts the behavioral experts at risk and many of them will probably end up having to call the police to come back to deal with the situation if it escalates.
There is a reason people call the police to deal with situations like these, and it’s not just out of convenience. Unlike social workers, law enforcement officers have already agreed to risk their safety and their lives to place themselves in danger. In fact, FBI data has already shown that defunding the police increases fatalities.
Violent situations can escalate fast
Police officers sign up to risk their lives every day in a variety of situations that can be extremely unpredictable and violent. Many times, violent situations can escalate within just a couple of seconds. Without police presence in response to these situations, people would be on their own to deal with situations like this one, where a neighbor was shooting a shotgun into the air and threatening to kill people if they called the police.
The suspect ended up wounding both responding officers in the head while the people who called the police had to defend themselves and provide first-aid to the officers. Other officers eventually showed up and arrested the suspect. Had they been on their own, someone probably would have ended up dead.
People have emergencies
This one sounds obvious, but it needs to be said – people have emergencies where police response is needed. If the local police departments are defunded, there will be a lot of people who can’t get help, some of which might take matters into their own hands and end up hurt or killed.
Smaller departments get defunded first
Defunding the police has a bigger impact than most realize. For example, one of the first departments to be defunded when money is tight is animal control. Normally, people can file reports with animal control and they will dispatch an officer to the person’s home to discuss the matter.
Often, these reports are about dangerous animals that have attacked the person, their kids, or their pets. The responding officer has the authority to enforce the city’s laws pertaining to animals, and can go right to the source of the problem and give them an official warning to contain their animals.
When animal control gets defunded, they will take reports, but won’t have anyone to enforce the laws, leaving residents with one option: to wait until they are actually injured by the dangerous animal and then file a personal injury lawsuit against the owner.
Defunding police is a bad idea
While many people say defunding the police isn’t the same as dissolving the police, there’s almost no difference because the result is the same. Our communities depend on law enforcement to keep them safe, and what appears to be a non-violent situation can turn violent in a matter of seconds.
That’s not to say law enforcement doesn’t need some reform, but society needs to consider other options before defunding the agencies that keep society safe.