Redirection not Ruination
Pandemic Diary Entry # 45
This Pandemic is bringing many of our systemic problems to the surface. One of those is the inherent racism and excessive use of force by our police forces. Now we have the inadequately named movement, Defund the Police that hopes to correct that.
“We’re asking cops to do too much in this country,” “We are. Every societal failure, we put it off on the cops to solve. Not enough mental health funding, let the cops handle it. … Here in Dallas we got a loose dog problem; let’s have the cops chase loose dogs. Schools fail, let’s give it to the cops. … That’s too much to ask. Policing was never meant to solve all those problems.” David Brown former Dallas Police Chief.
San Francisco Police Chief William Scott: “We’re at a time in policing in this country where the whole world is speaking to us and we need to hear what’s being said. And what’s being said is we have to change the way we police in this country. And I think for me, I’m open to that.”
Even the police agree that it is time for a change in how we police this nation.
Implicit bias training and community relations initiatives are rife throughout the US in hopes of curbing abuse by local police. There is no evidence to show that any of that has helped.
In the wake of the killing of Michael Brown, followed by several more deaths at the hands of police, Minneapolis and five other cities took part in a national program designed to help reform policing. The program included courses on implicit racial bias and how to de-escalate tense situations. It most certainly did not work in Minneapolis.
In 1999 the Department Of Justice entered into a consent decree with the New Jersey State Police for racially disparate traffic stops. A study of its practices from 2005 to 2007 showed that stops were still racially disproportionate, with 75 percent directed at black or Latino motorists, this was after the police had made procedural changes requested by the DOJ.
In Cleveland after four years of a DOJ investigation into allegations of excessive use of force they instigated a policy prohibiting officers from shooting at fleeing vehicles unless there was an immediate threat to life. That obviously failed, after the policy change, officers shot an unarmed driver and passenger one hundred and thirty seven times because the cops mistook an engine backfire for a gunshot.
On a typical day in the US, police officers make more than 50,000 traffic stops, The Stanford Open Policing Project reviewed millions of these. Their study showed that black Americans are nearly twice as likely to be pulled over than white Americans, though white people drive more often. This was also found to be true with cyclists and pedestrians.
In America 1 in every 37 adults, or 2.7% of the adult population, approximately 2.3 million people, are in some form of correctional institution. That is a stupefying amount of people in prison. If you look at Massachusetts, the state with the lowest incarceration rate in the US, if it were its own country, it would imprison more people than all but nine other nations. Nine countries not exactly known for their progressive stances towards justice, they include El Salvador, Turkmenistan, Cuba, Thailand Rwanda, Russia, Panama, Costa Rica and Brazil.
In the US Black people are more likely to be charged for drug crimes than white people, even though white people use and sell drugs at an equal rate. Thirteen percent of the U.S. population is black, but 27% of those who are arrested are black. Black people are nearly six times more likely to be incarcerated.
A 2015 study of the U.S. Police-Shooting Database found that an unarmed black American is likely to be shot by police at a rate three times higher than that of an unarmed white American.
The Defund the Police movement is not attempting to rid America of its police departments, it is trying to say this has to stop. There are other ways to deal with our overwhelming social ills.
The City of Camden, New Jersey is an excellent example of completely overhauling their cities police force and because of the new structure the city has seen their crime rates drop. In fact, during the Black Lives Matter demonstrations that have been taking place since the death of George Floyd the police left their riot gear at home and came with a Mr. Softee ice cream truck and handed out free ice cream.
There were 67 homicides in Camden, New Jersey in 2012. That figure dropped to 25 in 2019. They also had a 95% drop in excessive force complaints in that same period. This, because, over the past seven years, the department has undertaken some of the most far-reaching police reforms in the country. This includes only firing guns and the use of force as a last resort. They are trained to take things slow, de-escalate whenever possible and take steps to avoid deadly force situations, even if it means standing down and waiting for backup.
This is a great first step, and presently Minneapolis is working towards the same goal. The City Council of Minneapolis has agreed to dismantle the police department and replace it with “a transformative new model for public safety.”
They do not stand alone in their actions. An increase in the $1.86 Billion budget of the Los Angeles Police Department, primarily earmarked for police bonuses, was reduced by $100-$150 million.
In New York, more than 40 city council candidates have called for a $1 billion cut to the police department’s $6 billion budget over four years. They want the funds reallocated to help fund various programs such as the city’s summer youth employment program.
In Philadelphia, however, Mayor Jim Kenney’s revised coronavirus-era budget proposal slashes programs focused on youth violence prevention, workforce development, and the arts. It also calls for laying off hundreds of workers at recreation centers and libraries. This while the police department is looking at a $14 million increase in their budget. The mayor is facing pushback from his own city council however.
This pandemic is going to cause all cities across the country to be looking at their police budgets. According to the National League of Cities, from now until 2022, cities collectively are facing losses to their overall budgets of $360 billion.
Interestingly, a study by Nobel Prize-winning economist Elinor Ostrom found that to obtain safer communities, funding or size of services is not important. What is important is the connections and trust between the community and the service provider. Her research provides clear evidence that police forces, especially in Black neighborhoods, don’t need to be as large as they are, and don’t need huge budgets.
Many people respond to all of this with: if this comes to fruition what happens when I call 911? That is a misleading question. When you call 911 the police aren’t dispatched if they aren’t needed. If you have a fire, the fire department comes, if you are having a heart attack, an ambulance will come. 911 is not going to disappear, if done correctly, it can actually offer more, rather than less, options for response.
Imagine if a portion of a police department budgets were allocated to the hiring of mental health workers to help the homeless, or experts in child care to respond to child abuse calls or substance abuse experts to help with the drugs on the street. Replacing guns and badges with less threatening help would mitigate a considerable amount of problems making both the public and the police feel safer. These situations often put police in a spot that they have never been trained to handle and many police departments have said they no longer want to be a part of policing these social ills.
“For us to make the neighborhood look and feel the way everyone wanted it to, it wasn’t going to be achieved by having a police officer with a helmet and a shotgun standing on a corner,” officers should “identify more with being in the Peace Corps than being in the Special Forces.” Camden, New Jersey’s Chief of Police J. Scott Thomson.
This can not happen with just a revamping of policing, the cities and neighborhoods where police brutality is at its worst are also in dire need of access to social services, economic rejuvenation, and good schools.
How any of this is implemented will most likely vary from community to community. There are 18,000 police departments across the Unites States. As Lisa Bender of the Minneapolis City Council said, it took 150 years for their police department to get to where they are, she hopes it won’t take 150 years to get to a better place. “It is clear that our system of policing is not keeping our communities safe,” Bender said. “Our efforts at incremental reform have failed, period.”
Whether you agree or not with the defund movement, if you are white, you must put yourself in the shoes of black and brown citizens. When they are in trouble they don’t call the police, they are afraid to. So those neighborhoods in effect do not have a police department. That is just wrong.
“I think we’re finally getting to the point where we’re recognizing that policing does not equate [with] public safety,” “And that if we’re perpetually underfunding all these support services that can actually prevent crime, that’s actually causing us to have higher crime rates.” Megan Ellyia Green, Saint Louis councilmember in an interview with Sarah Holder of City Lab.
“Imagine the kind of support services we can have if we divest resources from punishment to funding basic human needs,” Rossanna Rodriguez-Sanchez 33rd Ward Alderman of Chicago on Twitter.
This is a movement that is picking up steam across the country, it won’t be the same for each community, it won’t happen in every town, but it is high time we stopped paying $470 per officer (Los Angeles) for riot gear or $230,000 for a police armored vehicle.
Then there are the cost of lawsuits stemming from excessive use of force that are paid directly from the tax base of a city. Here are 10 major cities in the US with their corresponding lawsuit costs. The totals of these 10 cities is over $1.1 Billion. The City of Boston $36 million between 2005 and 2015, Chicago $521 million between 2004 and 2014, Cleveland $8.2 million between 2004 and 2014, Dallas, Texas $6.6 million between 2011 and 2014, Denver $12 million between 2011–2015, Los Angeles $101 million between 2002 and 2011, Minneapolis $9.3 million between 2011 and 2014, New York City $348 million between 2006 and 2011, Oakland, California $74 million between 1990 and 2014 and Philadelphia $40 million between 2009 and 2014. Imagine what city services that money could have paid for.
Reports have shown that police departments do not need more money for training programs, hardware or oversight. The goal of Defund the Police is to rethink the distribution of funds, and dramatically shrink the function of police departments. The time is ripe for the cities to develop non-police solutions to the social ills of America.
While I am thrilled to see this movement advancing, it is sad that it has only come forward as a result of a litany of unarmed black and brown bodies.
Kendra James, Alberta Spruill, Kathryn Johnston, Tarika Wilson, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Shereese Francis, Rekia Boyd, Shantel Davis, Alesia Thomas, Malissa Williams, Darnisha Harris, Shelly Frey, Carey, Yvette Smith, Dontre Hamilton, John Crawford III, Michael Brown Jr, Ezell Ford, Dante Parker, Tanisha Anderson Eric Garner, John Crawford III, Ezell Ford, Dante Parker, Tanisha Anderson, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, Rumain Brisbon, Jerame Reid, Tony Robinson, Phillip White, Eric Harris, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray. Terence Crutcher, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Arthur McAfee Jr.,Ronnell Foster, Shermichael Ezeff, Cameron Hall, Stephon Clark, Danny Thomas, Juan Markee Jones, Marcus-David L. Peters, Robert Lawrence White, Antwon Rose, Anthony Marcell Green, Rashaun Washington, Cynthia Fields, Botham Jean, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, David McAtee, Steven Demarco Taylor, Ariane McCree, Terrance Franklin, Miles Hall, William Green, Samuel David Mallard, Tamir Rice, Botham Shem Jean, EJ. Bradford, Michael Dean, Jamie Johnson, Natasha McDade, Yassin Mohamed, Finan H. Berhe, Sean Reed, Darius Tarver, Kwame Jones, De’von Bailey, Christopher Whitfield, Anthony Hill, Eric Logan, Jamarion Robinson, Gregory Hill Jr. , JaQuavion Slaton, Ryan Twyman, Brandon Webber, Jimmy Atchison, Willie McCoy, Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr., D’ettrick Griffin, Jemel Roberson, DeAndre Ballard, Botham Shem Jean, Anthony Lamar Smith, Ramarley Graham, Manuel Loggins Jr., Trayvon Martin, Wendell Allen, Kendrick McDade, Larry Jackson Jr., Laguan McDonald,
After I hit publish on this article I was sent another article titled “Confessions of a Former Bastard Cop.” The article written by an ex-police officer not only validates all that I have said in this article, but goes even further in his asking to dissolve police departments. Please take the time to read it, it is very powerful.
My Horoscope for today: It’s not your judgment you have to worry about today; it’s other people’s. Be ready to talk them down off the ledge with calm and insightful advice.
San Francisco weather: 64 degrees and cloudy
NYSE DOW opened at: 26282
NYSE DOW one year ago: 26180
Foreign word of the day: sandy
OED word of the day: anent (Along, in line with; alongside, beside; even or level with)
Days under Shelter In Place: 86
Reading: Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
Studying Nicolló Machiavelli’s The Prince and his biography Nicolló’s Smile
My Black and White Picture of the Day
Something Silly From the Internet:
If you liked this please clap and let me know. Thank you