Social media is rife with memes about how the murder rates are going up if we defund police departments. Except, that’s not the point of the Defund the Police” movement. Its purpose to is to attempt to move resources around to get better results for police and civilians alike. For example, my neighbor’s giant dog (he is some kind of St. Bernard/Mastiff mix) gets loose they aren’t home and I don’t’ even know the dog’s name. I don’t live in city limits there’s no animal control for me. If I call for assistance because our neighborhood is full of kids, cats, and other dogs, four or five armed sheriff’s deputies show up to my call. Here’s the thing, I don’t know that this dog is vicious, he might be a sweetheart.
And while I personally wouldn’t call the police for this, I can think of a few that would. But what is the point? Are the officer’s going to shoot the dog? I mean, what can they really do? Nothing, but they still have to respond “just in case” the dog attacks someone or something. Imagine if there was a county wide animal control instead of just for the city of Columbia. Then boone County animal control could be called and instead of four or five armed sheriff’s deputies that can’t do anything, a couple of animal control officers would show up.
Or let’s do a different example; you call 911 telling them you are afraid for your life. Between the time of the call and the time of arrival, security guards at the location have cuffed you and pinned you to the floor. It is obvious to the first responding officer there is something wrong; drugs or mental illness. And running your name they find you have a history of mental illness paranoid schizophrenia to be exact. However, during the attempts to get you into the car there’s a small scuffle while you are cuffed and you die. Imagine if that was your child? How angry would you be? Officers thought there might have been drugs or a mental illness and yet they didn’t do anything about it. Imagine how much different everything would have been if two police officers and a councillor had shown up instead of the six police officers that did respond and caused the death of Tony Timpa?
That’s the question Dallas asked and they did this; they moved around resources to make more outreach programs available along with sending the proper kind of response to the proper situation. You don’t need a SWAT team to break up a noisy party, usually two community liaison officers do the job just fine. But for the record, where I live doesn’t have community liaison officers at the sheriff’s department. If I call about a noisy party, I get the exact same response I’d get if I called about an unknown dog. It’s a waste of police resources and time. But with no other resources available, armed police officers must respond to noisy parties and loose dogs of unknown temperament.
Meaning it isn’t entirely about the removal of police forces it’s about finding resources for these other necessary programs. Although, after the success of Camden, New Jersey there is an element of that. In 2011, the Camden police department was almost completely destroyed and rebuilt their police force to root out corruption. Nearly the entire force was fired and replaced. After this was done, the Camden, NJ police force budget was increased. This meant new officers received larger salaries and there was a ton of new money for outreach programs including semi-regular police department/community barbecues and on duty civilian staff trained to deal with mental illness as well as drug and alcohol addiction. Things in Camden have significantly improved for both police who are adored by the citizens and citizens who feel like for the first time they can trust the police that protect them.