A year ago it was all the rage. George Young’s death at the hands of a police officer very quickly went viral. It became front and center in the American dialog and in the American media. Protests spread across the country, on top of the fact that we were in the midst of a pandemic. the police were not protectors of the law, they were the enemy. We need to reduce our dependence on our local police force and allocate our money elsewhere, we need to defund the police. If you were on the extreme left, it was your cause. If you were on the extreme right this was the gateway to violent revolution (and communism, if I thought they knew what communism is I would expand, but they don’t). It was a very emotional moment in the timeline of US history. But just as quickly as it came it seemed to disappear. Sure there are still few fringe groups pushing this narrative, but given the immediate results of these efforts it is retracting. Emotional responses are rarely rational responses and like a fire dying down you are soon left with slowly dying embers. Emotions burn hot but for a very short time.
Since Police forces are local operaration, city councils jumped to the forefront. We need to cut the budget of our local law enforcement. But it was all emotional and in the end burned itself out. Of late many City Councils who jumped on the band wagon, are now quietly jumping off. As they lost police officers and reduced budgets what happened? Crime went up. When crime increases people begin to feel uneasy. In my home town of Seattle, the city council jumped all over defund the police, causing a mass exodus of police officers. Not surprisingly 2021 looks to be a banner year for crime in Seattle (visit Seattle Police Crime Dashboard). Oakland has looked to create programs to fill vacancies amidst a spike in crime rates. It really is not that surprising, where there is a vacuum criminals are quick to fill. If you looked at the national level, then candidate Joe Biden never joined in. It was maturity versus the feeling of the moment.
Early on I looked into what the ideas were for defund the police. Which was not easy to find, a scattering of ideas, but nothing truly definitive . One thing about government is when you defund one organization the money you save is not going back to taxpayers, it needs to go somewhere. During its peak I tried looking online for what are some of the plans these so called civic activists had for reforming city budgets. It was a hodge podge of ideas that were kind of random and ill informed. A personal favorite was involving social workers. If we have someone who is drunk and problematic lets bring in a social worker to handle the situation. A few notes on this. Not everyone is a “happy” drunk. Some are actually angry and violent drunks. Which is why police get called in. Are social workers trained to deal with these situations especially if the drunk attacks them? Not to mention we should discuss how much social workers get paid, the mean avg salary for a social worker in 2020 was $51,760, as provided by Bureau of Labor and Statistics. We know the case loads they already have is overloaded, despite some peoples best efforts to label them lazy bureaucrats. Another idea was getting rid of SWAT teams, because the riots got a bit violent. SWAT teams are trained to handle situations beyond the capabilities of a traditional police force. Negotiations with a terrorist group in a hostage situation? In today’s world luckily not used to often, but when you need it nice to have.
Police pay became a issue. Yes, Police officers get paid well. However these are very high stress jobs and some of that pay is a bit mislabled. They do get paid well depending on where you are located, but in Seattle, go the Seattle Gov website and you can see after 3.5 yrs Seattle police officers can be making over 100k (cost of living in Seattle would be another issue). Police get a lot of overtime pay which add to their base salary. All those officers at construction sites, funeral processions etc..valued services but it’s OT and that is ok and appreciated. I find many are upset about Police salaries because they are not being paid well in their line of work, but can you put a price on public safety? In my view Police receive what they deserve, not to mention everyday they show up for work could be their last, not due to layoffs but to violence.
Part of our modern culture is the volume that social media creates. Things get loud very quickly and at times it seems like they will change the world forever, when reality they are just over blown moments in time. It is hard to disseminate what is factual and what is overblown hype. When the video of George Floyd appeared, it was naturally and rightfully viewed with horror by the American public (and global). We have seen a lot of videos over the past several years that have harmed the image of our local Police force. Let us not mince words, it has been painful. It has hurt the country. Most importantly it has hurt our police force.
Our history is far from perfect, one just need look back to the civil rights movement to see the brutality levied against black Americans. After 246 yrs of slavery and 100 yrs of Jim Crow, trust in authority will not happen in mere decades. The US incarceration rate does not help matters, where 13 % of US population is black, but make up 40% of prison population. It is unbalanced. There are areas we still have to address as a nation if we are to restore faith in our institutions For any nation to survive it needs a rule of law and the ability to enforce those rules. Our police officers provide a vital role in that enforcement and maintaining the safety of our citizens. I undertsand the hostility of black americans (as best as a white male can) and in the age of instant information things explode unexpectedly and often rightfully. We should keep in mind what we see on the internet are exceptions not rules, the majority of police officers provide invaluable service to the communities they serve.
In the end the movement to defund the police succumbed to reality. The real people taking note of this movement were not a bunch on “do gooders”, but wait for it….criminals. Defund the people who are supposed to bust us, meaning less feet on the street, a opportunity is provided with ill intent. One thing that defines the current age is our emotional impulses. We tend to move to rage very quickly, leaving rational thought behind. Our ability to think long term solutions versus immediate gratification is blunted, almost always towards the latter. Too many of us see the problem but cannot grasp the solution. The national crisis on homelessness being one that comes to mind. Defund the police was always emotional and as is typical in this day an age a blanket statement was created to define a problem, but a alternative solution was never provided. It also ignored the good work that many police officers do, instead focused on a variety of negative situations, some very valid thanks to the ability of all of us to capture events on our iPhone.
In the end every tragedy that occurs is a chance to for us to review and reform Following the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO one of the reforms/innovations that took place was body camera’s on police officers. It was a step forward. People were outraged and the country looked to reform and look forward. The outcome of George Floyd, beyond the trial has not led to any reform. Despite the rhetoric it has not led to new methods of policing. As the post started our ability to tackle crime in some cities has regressed. Socially we painted the police force as a dark force in America. This was a bit dim in my view. Do we have issues of “bad” police. Yes. Do we have issues of race in the US? Yes. We have systemic issues in the US rooted in history. However the idea that defund the police was going to revolutionize law enforcement was always a dream without a foundation.