Defund the police: CON


Yesh Nikam and Xander Cox

If we want to live in a fairer and safer society, defunding the police is not the answer. Take Southeastern Washington DC, where, according to the Washington Post, officials announced a $15 million police budget cut in mid-June. On the Fourth of July, in the Frederick Douglass apartment complex, 11-year-old Devon McNeal was murdered as a result of gang violence. In an interview with Turning Point USA, residents of the complex were later asked if they approved of the movement to defund the police. One woman responded, “We need to put more police on every corner.” We need to take into consideration the effect this movement will have on communities of lower income and of color —  like Devon’s, which are currently experiencing a disturbing spike in murder rates throughout the nation. Yet there is relatively little mass-media coverage about this young boy or the myriad other violent incidents plaguing America’s cities.

The police play an important role in law enforcement. If you diminish police presence, laws are perceived as weaker; a power vacuum emerges on which criminals, mobs, and gangs will pounce. While law-abiding citizens will continue to follow the regulations, criminals will use violent and predatory tactics to gain control and target vulnerable, helpless citizens. If we reduce the police force, we will endanger American lives by depriving them of the protection that they rightfully deserve.

This dynamic is already manifesting itself across the country. America’s biggest cities — the epi-centers of the movement to defund the police — have seen a considerable increase in crime this past year with significant upticks in the past two months, indicating that merely perceived reduction in policing is detrimental to American neighborhoods. A Wall Street Journal analysis of crime in America’s 50 biggest cities noted a 24% rise in homicides this past year, with a similar increase in shooting and gun violence while petty crime levels have maintained steady. According to the New York Police Department crime statistic, New York — a city that received a $1 billion budget cut in policing this summer — saw the number of shooting related incidents increase by 130% in June and 177% in July, compared to the same months last year. America’s biggest cities hold the largest minority populations and have subsequently experienced the brunt of these increases in crime. According to NBC News New York, 97% of the shooting victims in New York City during the month of June were from a community of color.

Since violent crime disproportionately affects Black and brown neighborhoods, these same neighborhoods should have a strong say in the state of the nation’s policing. According to a Gallup poll taken in late June, 81% of African Americans and 83% of Hispanic Americans either want increased or the same amount of police presence in their neighborhoods. Wealthy and predominantly white communities often have the resources to hire private security firms to protect their neighborhoods, leaving the poorest Americans to deal with the consequences of a lack of policing.

The increase in crime following the recent movement against the police does not represent a unique incident either. According to USA Today, after the horrific Freddie Gray shooting in Baltimore in 2015, the Baltimore Police Department significantly reduced their activity, decreasing responses to calls, pursuing fewer people through search warrants, and dropping the number of field interviews by 70%; they effectively diminished their community engagement. In the year following these changes, Baltimore experienced a record high number of murders and saw the number of shootings triple. A less engaged police force will leave American communities more, not less, vulnerable.

If we want to see higher quality, safer policing of our communities, allocating funds for better police training is a significantly better alternative than defunding the police. Depriving the police of adequate resources to train its cadets will only cause the institution as a whole to worsen. According to a Gallup poll, 94% of Americans agree police reform is needed. Cutting back on the ability to reevaluate and better train police forces will lead to a continuation, if not a rise, in police brutality. Improving police background checks is one tactic that can help eliminate poor policing. Derek Chauvin, the officer charged with the murder of George Floyd, was a mentor for junior officers. According to the Marshall Project, dozens had filed complaints against Chauvin in his 19 yearsin the Minneapolis Police Department, but he was still permitted to mentor younger trainees, teaching poor policing tactics to countless cadets. Sufficient background checks and repercussions for dangerous officers like Chauvin would be an effective change that would contribute to safer policing. 

A typical argument for defunding the police is allocating the additional funds to school systems. This argument fails to consider that, according to Fox News Baltimore, failing school districts sometimes receive the largest funds in the country. In an interview with Governing Magazine, Marta Mossberg, a visiting fellow at the Maryland Public Policy Institute, noted that schools within Maryland have seen an increase in funding by over 40% in the last 20 years, causing an increase in the number of teachers and staff. Yet student scores have stagnated and the condition of many of these public schools has worsened, as guaranteed step-pay increases provide no incentive to improve teachers’ quality of teaching. Simply adding more money to schools will only further weaken the quality of teaching at low-income public schools. Defunding police to fund schools without addressing structural problems and inequalities in schooling will have detrimental effects on both systems. 

When considering to defund the police, we must look at the numbers and listen to the voices of those who will be affected. Celebrities and media influencers should not dictate the amount of protection for those living in crime-ridden neighborhoods. We all want to see our communities safer and rid of harmful policing, but defunding the police brings us further from, rather than closer to that goal.