By Liah Noboa, 9th grade journalist.
The world is waking up. As numerous protests have recently taken place in North America opposing racism and police brutality increase, the effectiveness when it comes to the U.S. police system has started to been questioned and analyzed by many — reason being why the term ‘defunding’ the police was brought to the table and mainstream conversations.
Essentially what it means is, as The Guardian (20) expresses, “The basic principle is that government budgets and “public safety” spending should prioritize housing, employment, community health, education, and other vital programs, instead of police officers. Advocates argue that defunding is the best way forward since attempts to reform police practices over the last five years have failed, as evidenced by the brutal killing of George Floyd.” Now, this doesn’t mean abolishing/eliminating all police departments, it’s simply just reallocating resources and funds to social services that are most needed — that’s what defunding is about.
To put this in perspective, the U.S. spends a whopping $115 billion annually in policing and $80 billion in incarceration, while it spends almost half less on education and cash welfare. Especially in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic where sectors such as education, healthcare, housing, transportation, and tourism saw (and will probably continue to have) drastic cuts in their expenditures, the current administration refused to make any changes to police budgets, leaving many even untouched and in some instances still rising.
This system, while being heavily funded, still has major defects that are currently affecting disproportionately many Americans. Today, we still see disproportionate amounts of Black people getting murdered for foolish acts, in some cases, we can see no acts done in the first place. We still hear the horrible murders of Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Tamir, Rice, Alton Sterling, and hundreds (if not thousands) more. We still see their prejudice and bigotry, because of this, Black people are 6 times more likely to be killed by police officers compared to white people. Their system still has vast flaws, and instead of trying to directly mitigate the root of crime which leads to the existence of cops in the first place, the government focuses on improperly funding more to a massively flawed system that will continue to showcase plenty of instances of ineffectiveness if proper action is not taken. In other words, instead of spending more money on useless training programs, funds would be best redirected to strengthening communities and their people so that brutal and oppressive police are not needed in the first place and not only crime could lower since the root problem is targeted, but the U.S could save up plenty of money and manage their current funds wisely.
In reality, cops already spend most of their time doing routine, whether it’s writing reports, driving around neighborhoods and responding to non-criminal calls, and normally in short work shifts. The vast majority of these police officers spend approximately 4% of their time responding to violent crime and 0.1% in homicide. They’re not “warrior cops” like everyone sees in movies, so I reiterate, such incredible amounts of money cannot continue to be spent on policing while the government barely spends money in what could help even more in organizing and educating their own society so that crime isn’t so prevalent in the first place.
Matthew Bostrom, a criminologist at the University of Oxford who spent more than 30 years as a police officer, commander, and sheriff in St. Paul, Minnesota, said himself that “The job is 99 percent boredom and 1 percent sheer panic.” This is why I still cannot grasp to understand why police forces are fully dressed in riot gear to face peaceful protesters, but doctors and health care workers still desperately fight to get the PPE that they essentially need to take care of themselves and their patients amid this pandemic.
It would be a fallacy to say that policing in the U.S. has to be the bigger focus. “Public housing has been replaced by for-profit housing; public schools and hospitals have been closed and turned into condos; library hours have been reduced to the bare minimum. Youth and jobs programs are from a distant era. And, all the while, police departments remain almost entirely immune to layoffs and austerity that all other public workers are subjected to. “ states Taylor (2020) from The New Yorker.
There is little evidence, if any, to show that more officers directly correlate with lower crime rates. In fact, more violent enforcement (which is very prevalent in the country) tends to only increase convictions for exceedingly minor offenses while promoting abusive encounters with police officers and minorities. Yet, figures suggest that authorities have preferred to endorse the police department over public health and other issues.
At the end of the day, the government should focus on treating the symptoms instead of the underlying disease, so that the core problem can be solved. Much more money is spent on law and order rather than social services, healthcare, and the list goes on and on. The excess money spent on policing must be directed to these systems that are way more important and that actually address the root issue. If not, it will continue to be more inefficient and illogical. This must be stopped and change must be done, especially in such a wide and flawed system.