As we watch, different police encounter events unfold either in front of our eyes or witnessing them through social media. The long-awaited question that comes to the forefront of our thoughts is, do we defund the police? I go back and forth with my answer to this question. I get so angry with the viral videos and numerous stories that constantly belittle the black and brown individuals. There are moments I say yes, defund them because they not acting right, nor are they using the resources for their initial intent and purpose. Then the other part of me also considers, well, what if something happens to me and they aren't able to help me since I advocated for taking their funds away. After processing my thoughts, I concluded that the happy medium for me personally is not to abolish but to reform. So now let's talk about it.
Defund or Nah
We can better understand what police departments actually do and discuss what they should not be doing within reforming. I believe the police officers need support, but so do the citizens they have sworn to protect and serve. This support comes in areas of well-trained and well-educated police departments. We should also create a new way of thinking around police who may not be the right people to call for every situation. Not every case requires the same approach or the same resource. Why are we sending officers with no mental health knowledge and experience to handle an individual with mental illness? Some officers do not have the training to recognize nor appropriately respond to a mental health crisis. People experiencing a mental health crisis are more likely to encounter police than medical professionals. Some are jailed, and others are killed before getting locked up. This is why people get so angry and want to defund the police. For them, it means putting a stop to paying police to harass, exploit and have power over communities of color. If we want to invest in real solutions, we must reform the system. We need to supply adequate tools that police can use when they respond to mental health emergencies to do so in a safe, effective and caring manner that de-escalate tense situations. Reforming is about protecting both the person and the officer.
Reforming & Why
When we talk about reform, I also mean moving some police funding around to reinvest back into schools and community programs. Once again, not abolishing but redirecting money to other government agencies funded by the city. Reforming can decrease crime by creating more money for underfunded schools, more mental health programs, or even building drug recovery facilities. People need access to mental health experts, social workers and less time behind bars. They need adequate help. Keep the police departments, but allocate some police funding to different areas that are just as important. The police department, in theory, is supposed to be helpful, but it's always been oppressive and violent—that ain't helping nobody. If the police weren't so violent and biased towards people of color, then we wouldn't feel the need to pull out our cameras and document every interaction with them. We pull our cameras out because we never know if we're going to end up as a hashtag. Police have gotten so bold that they will treat people of color as less than even when their body cameras are on. Can we talk about that? By spreading some of the money to other areas, we can have room for experts to step in and help with mental illness, homelessness, domestic disputes, and other non-criminal activities. Police are not trained nor intended to do many of the jobs they perform.
The police system is actually not broken–it's working as it always has. I said earlier we were going to talk about it right. The origins of modern-day policing can be traced back to the "Slave Patrol." The earliest formal slave patrol was created in the Carolinas in the early 1700s with one mission: to establish a system of terror and squash slave uprisings with the capacity to pursue, apprehend, and return runaway slaves to their owners.
"I [patroller's name], do swear, that I will as searcher for guns, swords, and other weapons among the slaves in my district, faithfully, and as privately as I can, discharge the trust reposed in me as the law directs, to the best of my power. So help me, God."
Fast forward to the present, some of these same principles can be seen through modern-day oppression directed towards the black and brown communities. As the world is changing and evolving, so should our approaches and decision-making. The police system puts millions of people of color behind bars and deprives them of voting rights, employment, education, access to housing, etc. As active as they are putting them behind bars, where is the same energy when they transition out? What programs and resources are available to help motivate them not to repeat the cycle. We have to discuss the possibilities of progressive police reform.
Police violence is more than just bad apples; it also aligns with what they must be and do. As they are making the decision to protect and serve, they must remember not to dehumanize others in the process. Tupac mentions how the police are the biggest gang in America, and from what we have been witnessing, where is the lie? The media portrays blacks as if we invented the concept of gangs when it originated from white people. The original gangs were called Five Point Gang. Black gangs didn't formulate until later, and groups like the Black Panther came on the scene, with the intent to fight for civil rights. They weren't created until they saw a need to defend our people. Black people didn't have the freedom nor time to be in gangs; we were enslaved. I will close us out with this piece of reflection that violent policing and mass incarcerations aren't the answer. Justice reform requires a second look at legislation and building a bridge between blacks, brown, and blue.
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