Perhaps, like many readers, I thoroughly endorse the objectives of the Black Lives Matter movement. But, their insistence on using the term “defund the police” is not something I can get behind. This term implies that we want to eliminate the police in our communities, making no distinction between what the police currently do that is valuable and necessary, and those actions that are harmful to society and make us less safe.
Today’s police forces are burdened with many responsibilities for which they are not trained, such as managing the behavior of the mentally ill or acting-out — but not dangerous — adolescents.
Our communities need trained peace-keeping professionals who are outside of the police department and can mediate domestic violence situations, appropriately intervene when dealing with substance abuse, and stop potentially violent situations from escalating.
It is not fair or sensible to expect law enforcement officers to also act as community peace officers when they do not have the mission, staffing or training to allow them to do so. Thus we need to re-imagine the role of our police, to let them deal with those situations which they do best, and delegate all possible peace-keeping and community mental health functions to those who are trained for this role.
“Defund the police” focuses us on what we might be losing — a sense of public safety, or a recognition that not all cops are “bad.” Establishing community support teams might require the reallocation of some dollars and responsibilities that police have typically been saddled with.
But why not follow a positive vision of what we really want and what would best help our communities, rather than giving the message that all police have to be punished? Let’s ask for what we most want and need — a re-envisioning of what will best support our communities — rather than just focusing on what might be an end result of making some needed changes. We don’t want to defund the police so much as re-imagine what their positive role in our society can be, and I believe that this is something that our police can get behind as well.