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Defunding the Police: Proposing reform or total abolition?

One of the newest rallying cries is “defund the police,” and without proper explanation, it can be seen as a call to completely abolish the police. A closer look at proposed police reform and defunding packages show that “defunding the police” does not mean a total defunding of police in the vast majority of instances.

According to Mlive.com, advocates explain that “they want to see police budgets reduced or reprioritized, with significant changes to the role of police in the community.” The police departments will still be there, will still have a purpose, but will not be the social monoliths they are now.

Funds reallocated from police budgets would go to other civil programs and institutions to help build economies, thus leading to less need for the police. There would also be higher investments in other trained professional fields which would be more suited in situations police are regularly called to but might not have the proper training for, this in turn freeing up police to respond to serious criminal activity and reduce police response time to serious criminal matters.

Often included with “defunding the police” is police behavioral reform. Police Officers Association of Michigan President Jim Tignanelli stated that Michigan law enforcement take reports of “bad apples” very seriously.

Many police reform demands include making sure that police misconduct is taken very seriously, that good apples get the proper support they need to report the bad apples.

U.S. Representative Jim Hines lays blame on the media for editorializing, purposely making “defund the police” more provocative and ultimate than it is. Hines argues that “defund the police conjures “images of disbanding law enforcement, which is not something I, former Vice President Biden, or any other serious policy makers support, but the media has taken the bait.”

Hines continues, if you take time to dig past the slogans, there are valid and constructive points about making resources available for community-based solutions recognizing that not every call for assistance requires an armed response.

Representative Jahana Hayes, the wife of a police officer of 23 years, said “this package is not anti-police.” Hayes mentioned that any police reforms would take time, “that any solution to the problem of police misconduct will have to include proper training and resources for law enforcement agencies in order to reform their practices.”

The Connecticut Mirror reported that the reform bill by the Congressional Black Caucus, which Hayes has a seat on, “would make it easier to prosecute police officers who wrongly harm or kill someone, as well as those charged with other forms of misconduct.”

The police are not necessarily losing power, but would be held to higher degrees of conduct.

The Mirror said that proposed reform bills focus on changing legal wording that have significant effect. Wording changes would include prosecutors changing “willful” action to “knowingly or with reckless disregard.”

Killing or harming someone with intent is different than not caring that someone was hurt or killed, and the reforms would make both instances a matter of prosecution.

The new reform bill would also alter “qualified immunity” that has given “police officers and other public officials broad immunity from being sued if they have violated the constitutional rights of an individual.”

The bill also looks to do away with “no-knock warrants,” during which a black EMT, Breonna Taylor, was shot eight times and killed by policemen during. Choke holds, which have been used in the killings of Eric Garner and George Floyd would be nationally banned as well.

Under the bill, a national registry of law enforcement misconduct would be established, and would require states to report all uses of force by police to the Justice Department.

The Minneapolis City Council stating they will defund and also disband the Minneapolis Police Department is a rare case and goes beyond the aim of the police reform bill.

In a Minnesota NPR story, NPR reported that some Minneapolis civic leaders say that “the only way to fix the city’s embattled police department is to take it apart.” Civil leaders have not yet said how they will go about it, and that groups have “spent years shining a light on police brutality aren’t even sure it’s the answer.”

Minnesota governor Tim Waltz said “the current situation is not working.” Waltz continued, “I do support the changes communities are asking for because it’s not working now.”

Minneapolis stands to abolish their police department, and many believe this to be the flagship of the “defund the police” movement and bill. However, the “defund the police” stance in general is more aimed towards reform, not total abolition and defacing of police.

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