Defund the Police Doesn’t Mean Abolish it

Money+and+Our+Officers%3A+With+the+increase+in+protests+all+throughout+the+U.S+following+George+Floyd%27s+death%2C+there+was+a+rise+in+demands+to+defund+the+police.+Funding+towards+officers+should+be+allocated+to+community+organizations+and+into+community+reparations.+%E2%80%9CThe+best+solution+would+be+to+decrease+the+police+funds+and+make+them+rebuild+the+system%2C%E2%80%9D+said+Lara%2C+a+senior.%0A

Money and Our Officers: With the increase in protests all throughout the U.S following George Floyd’s death, there was a rise in demands to defund the police. Funding towards officers should be allocated to community organizations and into community reparations. “The best solution would be to decrease the police funds and make them rebuild the system,” said Lara, a senior.

Kelly Avila, Opinion Editor

Throughout United States history, race has always come up in key events that have changed the nation. Disregarding the faults of those who oppressed others in the name of history downplays the horrors certain groups of people had to face. It’s heartbreaking that today there are still many Americans who fear death simply because of the color of their skin. After the murder of George Floyd, an unarmed black man murdered by an officer while others stood by watching on May 25, protests followed. 

Riots followed after news of the officers that were present in Floyd’s death were fired and not tried for murder. With the increase in protests all throughout the country, there was a rise in demands to defund the police. Soon enough, defunding led to the idea of abolishing the police, which became something people were quick to preach about and advocate for. Here’s why that idea is an inefficient way for change, specifically in the state of California. 

It’s factual that people of color in the U.S. are less likely to feel safe around officers. In a study done back in 2016 by PEW Research center, it was found that black Americans are less likely to give police high marks for how they do their jobs and, “…only about a third of black adults said that police in their community did an “excellent” or “good” job in using the right amount of force, 33%, compared with 75% of whites, treating racial and ethnic groups equally, 35% vs. 75%, and holding officers accountable for misconduct, 31% vs. 70%.” The BLM movement has made it easier for poc, primarily black/African-Americans to speak up about their anger towards cops and their policing in black communities. “I support the Black Lives Matter movement because I support anti-racist policies. Since the 1980s, the rise of mass incarceration and the militarization of police have over-proportionately impacted people of color in low-income communities. I believe we must face the difficult and hard truth that this nation has historically discriminated against people of color and continues to do so,” Mr. Bautista, a history teacher, said. 

In 2020 alone, police officers have killed 826 people; black people make up 13 percent of the United States population, but 28% of them have been killed by officers. Those who are quick to jump in the defense of those cops may mention the crime rate in the area. While there may be some relation, it does not determine the rate of police violence. Police officers that abuse their power exaggerate a victim’s “threat” to an armed officer, then it is the victim who gets blamed for being shot by the officer, who’s intent was to kill.

When asked to give any criticisms about officers during the BLM protests, a teacher under the pseudonym of “Fulcrum” responded with questions for the officers themselves: “What will you do when there is an issue you believe in so strongly that you will take to the streets for? Do you expect to be treated with respect and allowed to share your frustration? Or should you be met with the same force that these protests have been met with? If you go about your job without compassion for those people that you are sworn to protect… then you are not doing the job you signed up for.” 

When people jump to the defense of officers, it’s that their fear likely pushed them into taking a gun out and shooting, but with that in mind, are officers taught in Policing Academies that the second they’re faced with a threat, they need to shoot to kill? 

Now let’s get into the juiciest information: what procedures are cops meant to follow and how much of an education must they receive to become a cop? According to the LAPD Officer Qualifications, to become an officer for the LAPD, candidates need to be 21 years old at minimum, have a highschool diploma or a GED, and “individuals can apply for a position with the LAPD by completing the online application, with includes preliminary background screening questions as well as a job preview questionnaire to assess the candidate’s readiness for police work. Accepted candidates then complete the selection process with additional aptitude, medical, and psychological exams.”  

The major concern here begins with the fact that officers only really need their high school diploma and general education to go straight into applying for a position as an officer. Therefore, they’re not required to major in things that would benefit them such as criminal justice, which gives students information on policing and corrections, the courts, and the justice system. 

According to Paulux Carillo, a senior, “The amount of basic training time on average required by the country to become a police officer is 647 hours according to trainingreform.org an organization advocating for reform in police training. As a comparison, according to nacams.org, the requirement to become a cosmetologist in the state of California is 1600 school hours and 3200 apprentice hours. The difference in training time is despicable. In order to take care of cosmetics, you need a required 4800 hours. Police need harsher regulations that drastically increase the required training. This would easily deter those who simply wish to become officers to get away with crimes and instead, leave those who truly wish to make the world a safer place.”

Officers do have the choice to proceed with their education to go as far as get their associates degree and even study pre-law, but the fact that it’s only option-based suggests there are officers who aren’t well versed in the laws and with a clear understanding of how the judicial system relates to them. Every person becoming an officer has to go to a Police Academy, no matter the level of education, and no matter the state. 

In the Californian Basic Police Academy, every aspiring officer needs a minimum of 888 hours- 37 days, in a range of 6 months- and it “…includes fundamental principles, procedures, and techniques of law enforcement, including Criminal Law, Patrol Procedures, Cultural Diversity, Investigative Procedures, Report Writing, Defensive Tactics, Firearms, Leadership, Ethics, Community Policing, Police Vehicle Operations, Traffic Enforcement, Accident Investigation, Handling Emotional Situations and First Aid/CPR.”  

With 15 different topics in the span of 6 months (only 37 days in the whole 6 month period), the police academy doesn’t have much time to go completely in-depth with every topic. After completing this, California officers are required to pass 2 tests- POST reading and writing test and physical agility WSTB test. Once they’ve completed the tests, they just need to fill out a BPA pre-registration form and they’re on their way to becoming officers.

Now, let’s talk about how much California spends on police officers as a whole. According to the Californian budget and Policy center, “California’s 482 cities and 58 counties spent more than $20 billion from all revenue sources on city police and county sheriff’s departments as recently as 2017-18, the most recent statewide data available.” The state of California as a whole spends around $50 billion on local law enforcement, incarceration in state and county jail, and the criminal legal system. With California spending over three times as much on police rather than the communities, it’s only natural taxes are raised, homelessness rates rise, and higher numbers of people begin to live in poverty. 

The best solution would be to decrease the police funds and make them rebuild the system because this is a systemic issue,” Lara, a senior, said. A lot of people though have begun to take defunding not as reallocating funds, but as abolishing the police. Another senior, going by the pseudonym “3”,  was adamant about letting people know that taking away resources from officers would create chaos, and “people aren’t going to follow the rules and become friendly with one another without cops. The reality isn’t nice and sweet. When crime goes down, like the massive lootings of buildings during protests, who’s meant to be there?” As unfortunate as it is, any time large groups of angry people gather, there’s bound to be some chaos. To some, the lootings may have been a way to lash out against capitalism, and for others, just for the fun of creating destruction. 

Either way, it’s factual that if the United States didn’t have the amount of police brutality that it’s had, then there wouldn’t have been looting in the first place. An author from the New York Times published an article that summed up the main idea for defunding, “by changing policies or statutes so police officers never respond to certain kinds of emergencies, including ones that involve substance abuse, domestic violence, homelessness or mental health.” If instead, emergency response teams were to be first at sites, where there was an overdose per se, a life can be saved. 

By sending armed agents with the power to arrest non-threatening situations, it’s possible that there will be some form of escalation. Fulcrum said something similar: “Defund the police does not mean get rid of the police. Originally, many police forces were created as labor and slave patrols to make sure slaves didn’t stop working or tried to escape. In the north, they were used to break up union strikes and labor disputes. Communities need advocates and allies… those hired to help out the people with counseling, vocational training, and other educational programs that can help people in the community rise above poverty.”
Breaking down the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) reports, between July 2018 and June 2020, police responded to 156,379 calls and “The CAD reports show that less than 4.4 percent of those dispatches—or a total of 6,809—were for calls about assault, gunfire, robbery, rape, stabbing, murder, or person shot.” Keeping this in mind, officers are required to respond to more than just calls for violent crime, so what truly is the role of an officer? 

Police officers are defined on ‘Wikipedia’ as those who report crime, apprehend suspects, and protect and assist the general public, while maintaining public order; this means they need to know how to de-escalate a situation that has gotten out of hand. “Having such large funding incites further use of unnecessary weaponry and equipment. Defunding the police would allow for more mindful usage and better control of certain situations. I also believe that the usage of the taser as opposed to the gun should be more prominent. It’s a far safer way of taking care of situations that involve unarmed targets,” Carillo said. The idea of maintaining public order is pretty broad because if officers are to maintain order by de-escalating a situation through gaining compliance from a suspect- even if it means force, why are they responding to things like mental health or substance abuse, where someone is more likely to act against an officer’s orders?

Today, in October, months after the death of George Floyd, people are still on the streets chanting “Black Lives Matter!” in protest against the unlawful force police have displayed against many Black Americans and other people of color. The vandalized and looted buildings have created a head-shaking idea for the thoughts circulating against cops. Fulcrum said, “Many of these cities [affected by the riots] are surrounded by corporations that have done little to help the community and profit off of the people who live there with jobs that provide low wages and high prices. These corporations become a symbol of the injustice that people of color have faced in these communities, like the Bastille in France during the revolution, it will be the first to be torn down. The police forces are already armed with riot gear, armored vehicles, and rubber bullets so why is it necessary to use tear gas on protestors?” Trained cops with itchy fingers on the trigger waiting for an excuse to let loose, or those quick to use their power to their advantage, are those that need to be weeded out of the system through a longer required learning in the BPA. 

Regarding the protests and BLM movement, Bautista said, “Throughout history, the voices who have spoken up for social justice often get criticized and ridiculed. The same happened during the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s for daring to speak out against segregation and voter suppression. At the time, people attempted to silence them and paint them as troublemakers. I have no criticisms of the BLM movement. American society has been improved because of activists who spoke out for racial justice even if it seemed radical at the time. Think ahead twenty years from now, and think about how the BLM movement will be remembered in history.” The BLM movement does well to support people of color who have faced injustice at the hands of the police, but it has also opened the door for those who misrepresent it. 

The lootings and the destruction of buildings during the protests is a good example of those who corroded the point of the protests. Carillo brought a good point up and said, “Those protests were somewhat tainted by those who cause more harm than good. Causing harm to advocate for the removal of harm isn’t logically correct. Businesses that were looted or even destroyed to send a message should have been left alone as they had nothing to do with what was going on and instead were simply trying to maintain themselves during the circumstances that were present, such as the pandemic. To destroy such businesses simply sends the wrong message. A message that racist individuals used to further fuel their racist ideas.” 

Defunding the police isn’t removing the police, and means exactly as it is: spending less money on departments and allocating it towards health care workers, emergency response teams, restorative justice teams, or even community organizers. The requirements to become an officer, especially,  needs to be reformed. From distributing funds to more community-oriented groups and reducing an officer’s call load, the biggest issue police brutality stems from is a lack of reform for the educational and learning requirements in not only California but nationwide.