To Defund, or Reform, that is the question
Every day and all around the country in every major city, millions of people are marching on the streets calling for, "Defunding the Police". One writer theorizes a viable option. Defunding the police entirely might be the most positive step forward, but government officials have other ideas to keep the country as “status quo” with very little changes. The reality is House Democrats and the Trump Administration are playing a tug of war with each other and neither party is truly acknowledging the demands of the American people. For the two party system, this is merely a political weapon to use for the upcoming Presidential election.
To make real change in how local law enforcement would look like in the future, one might have to look into what the viable alternatives are for local Police. Community service? What would a post-police era look like with Community Service officers in place of Police Officers? In an interesting Medium article written by someone that only goes by “SocietyX” has a compelling proposition:
Phase one | Transitionary Period During what I call the transitional period, societies can establish local community-based volunteer groups called the “transitionary forces” to patrol the neighborhoods. Such individuals will be trained by the transition committee, a non-profit nationwide organization established by a group of scholars in related fields such as sociology, psychology, criminology, and so on. Transitionary forces are then equipped and supported by the local community to keep the peace during the transition period. One unarmed transitionary force member will be assigned per 1000 residents. Once the former jurisdiction of the police or sheriff department is fully covered by the transitionary forces that are equipped with non-lethal devices such as pepper spray and other non-lethal tools, then the police department will be entirely disbanded and all officers will be fired. Phase two | Emergence of unarmed traffic enforcement The first step towards reintroducing the vanguards of social order to the society is training and hiring of unarmed traffic enforcement workers. This group will be given the authority to enforce traffic rules and issue citations and parking violation tickets. These individuals will work hand in hand with the transitionary forces to assist with general emergency response. Phase three | Social service workers In phase 3, we will introduce another unarmed force that consists of social service professionals, therapists and psychologists, and physicians to deal with wellness checks, mental health-related issues, youth problems, domestic violence, and more. At this stage, over 60% of the former police force is replaced with traffic enforcement and social workers. Phase four | Reintroduction of tactical response teams In this stage, we bring back 5% of the previously armed police force that will respond to violent crimes, active shooter situations, rape, murder, armed robbery, hostage situations, terrorism, hate crime, and other violent crimes. This force is the option of last resort and will be under full surveillance when active. Each weapon and each bullet must be tracked and accounted for at all times. The transitionary forces have the authority to deploy the armed units if a given situation calls for such a response. Phase 5 | The final stage of the transition The transitionary forces will evolve into a permanent community peacekeeping force to continue the ongoing patrol of the streets. These units will transition into organized, professional, paid, unarmed neighborhood patrols and will only be allowed to conduct operations in the neighborhoods they live in. These individuals will interact and collaborate with members of the public to assist with the day-to-day needs of the community. Tasks can range from setting up neighborhood events to security patrol and crime investigation.
Are there holes in this Community Force plan? Yes. As with all plans, especially when dealing with law enforcement, there are always holes, but this is a great start. The primary goal is to decrease the deadly-use-of-force. We need to stop putting social work in the hands of police. Police Officers aren’t Social Workers and they aren’t Mental Health Workers. When you consider that we have no public national mental health program, little to no funding for local mental heath services, and no homeless prevention program, we have put these social service responsibilities into the hands of police and in the hands of the Judicial system, which is another money making system that is has been and is just as corrupt as its police. Instead of investing in lower economic communities and fixing the problems by expanding our current social programs and better education, we are mass incarcerating disadvantaged people. Those that usually affected the most are people of color.
LAPD does not need an annual budget of $3 billion. NYPD does not need an annual budget of $5.6 billion. Local Law Enforcement as a whole needs a massive overhaul with cuts and place those funds to where it is needed, so less law enforcement is needed. Back in 2005, there was a program called "HOMELAND SECURITY THROUGH COMMUNITY POLICING" created under the Homeland Security Affairs 1, Article 4. Originally, this program was created to help uncover terrorist activity using regular citizens to patrol local neighborhoods instead of local police. While the program still exists, it has lost sight of its intended goal by relieving duties from local law enforcement to be put into the hands of citizens, but somewhere down the line, the project has been a failure in lower economic communities. In 2011, the Obama Administration in conjunction with FBI and Homeland Security created a Joint Terrorism Task Force to assist and train local law enforcement on how to disband and de-escalate the Occupy Wall Street Movement of 2011. In this FBI document, it revealed how it worked together with all law enforcement agencies across the United States. While the document is available to the public, it is highly redacted. This was something the media has not talked about since it was implemented because this too is a failed program that resulted in more aggressive police officers. In 2015, President Obama implemented another program called "Strengthening Community Policing" where this project was intended to retrain police so they weren't so impartial by introducing implicit bias training. As stated in one line of the "Blue Courage" training courses was to, "Reignite a sense of passion, purpose, and commitment to the nobility of policing'.
As we've witnessed since the implementation of these programs, cases of police brutality and excessive use-of-force has increased, not decreased as a result. So, whatever was created to "stream-line" the training process for local law enforcement, FBI, and Homeland Security is not working and needs to be undone by either disbanding local law enforcement altogether or we need a massive countrywide reformation on local police.
There is evidence that the House Democrats are focusing on police brutality through legislation that would impose a federal ban on chokeholds, mandate the nationwide use of body cameras, limit the “qualified immunity” doctrine shielding police officers from lawsuits, and establish a national database that would disclose names of officers who have a pattern of abuse, among other measures. On the other hand, the Trump Administration has alternative plans to defunding the police by reforming local law enforcement strategies including a call for co-responder programs in which social workers accompany police when responding to nonviolent reports involving homelessness, mental health and drug and alcohol addiction. On June 11, Trump met with law enforcement officials and African American faith leaders at Gateway Church to announce a four step revitalization plan: fostering economic development in minority communities by increasing access to capital for business owners; addressing racial health care disparities; getting police departments to meet use of force standards by executive order; and expanding access to education by pushing Congress to enact school choice. The executive order on Safe Policing for Safe Communities signed on June 16 would give police departments a financial incentive to adopt best practices and encourage programs in which social workers join police when they respond to nonviolent calls involving mental health, addiction and homeless issues.
The president's executive order also requires the attorney general to create a database tracking terminations, criminal convictions and civil judgments against law enforcement officers for excessive use-of-force. It encourages participation by providing certain grants only to those agencies that submit the required information. This may all sound great to those who wrote it, but this new executive order may not be the aggressive change we've been hoping for. We need far more from our leaders or we might need to defund them as well.