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Penciling in Life -- Monthly Column by Donald Dean Mace: The Folly of Defunding the Police



The Folly of Defunding the Police

Defunding the police sounds like a crazy idea and it could be unless we are careful.  Rationally, it seems like the only ones who would support defunding the police would be criminal organizations like the Mafia and drug cartels, thugs in short; and yet, people are calling for it, demonstrating for it.  When you think about it, defunding the police sounds like getting rid of the police and then replacing them…. but with what?  Who are we going to call when things go bad?  And without police and the threat of retribution for foul acts and the breaking of laws, things can go really bad, really fast, right? And some people it seems, tend to think that defunding police departments is a good way to punish them, make them pay for horrible deeds done to an underprivileged class of people, whether that class of people be from one race or another, the homeless, the mentally unstable, the functionally poor, or just some poor, innocent sap who happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.  You might think that the whole idea of defunding the police is insanity, the dreams of maniacs driven mad by crowd frenzy, mob mentality, or of good people having fallen prey to unethical protest organizers like ANTIFA (which is an acronym for anti-fascist), or worse even, foreign agents bent on destroying the United States of America, or socialism rearing its ugly head, or worse yet, communism—The whole thing is a threat to democracy! In reality, defunding the police is not such a good idea, but the idea behind the idea is. 

Before we jump into finding out exactly what is meant by defunding the police, let’s take a quick sidestep and define socialism, communism, and democracy; this, because I mentioned them in an unfavorable light, a light in which they don’t belong because they are simply forms of government. And, like the movement to defund the police, these concepts are greatly misunderstood. First off, socialism is a system of government in which all citizens share the wealth, even those that are incapable of participation in the creation of wealth, and all people receive health care, the goods and services necessary to survive, adequate housing, and equal access to education, even higher education; in other words, all exchange is owned and regulated by the community as a whole for the good of the community. Second, communism is a system of government in which all people share the wealth and are absolutely equal; It’s a social and economic system based on a common ownership of production with a distinct lack of social classes, currency and state. Third, democracy is a system of government in which eligible citizens elect representatives and a leader (typically a president), as opposed to being ruled by a monarch. And, while we are here, let’s take a look at a few other forms of government.  For instance, republics. A republic is a form of government in which governing is a public matter and positions of power are held by both elected officials and members of an oligarchy (a hierarchy), and a leader is chosen according to the will of the people. For example, while The United States of America is considered by its citizens to be a democracy, it is not; it is governed as a federal republic. In reality, the United States of America is both a republic and a democracy. Capitalism is another thing that can be a little confusing. Capitalism is both an economic and political system by which trade and industry are held and controlled by private owners for profit. The United States of America, like the rest of the western world, is a capitalistic society. I admit that these definitions are a little simplistic and wholly incomplete, but in general, a thinking public should understand these concepts and not be misled by false definitions; as you will recall, I mentioned above, these systems of government as they might be considered by an uninformed public.

We started out with the concept of defunding the police and whether or not this is a good idea. First, lets look at why this is a bad idea.  A few things happen when you cut funds to an organization.  One: salary cuts, personnel cuts, hiring freezes.  This means that organizations lose people to normal (and some abnormal) attrition and are unable to replace them.  Second: Training suffers or becomes nonexistent and this leads to poor decisions and improper actions by police officers. Third: Money is not available to pay professionals for things like psychological fitness and other criteria required for police officer candidates, which can allow unfit individuals access onto police departments.  Fourth: Equipment becomes outdated or falls into a state of disrepair, which impacts on police officer effectiveness, police officer safety, and community welfare as a whole.  Lastly (for the purposes of this too-short list), simply disbanding a police department is not a viable option.  It would lead ultimately to chaos.  In realty, what is needed is more funding, funding that can provide for more personnel, better training, and up-to-date, state of the art equipment, all of which support a protected, healthy and safe community.  What is needed I will cover shortly. 

So, what exactly is meant by defunding the police? In short, what is meant by defunding the police is simply this: reallocating or diverting some portion or all of police funding to support various community outreach and citizen support programs, programs like neighborhood infrastructure, education, health care, and the like.  Allocating funding to these social programs is a great idea, brilliant.  However, stripping police departments of funding is not the way to do it. These funds should come from taxes levied against wealthy corporations and their executives primarily, along with a fair tax collected from eligible citizenry.  Raising taxes is never a popular idea, especially among the wealthy.  Still, in the end they benefit from it, even if they have to be dragged there kicking and screaming.  While I could go into a long dissertation and discuss economic ideas like “Trickle Down Economics” and “Market Economy” and then spin off into the pros and cons of the various philosophies of government, I don’t have space for that here. Let me just say that when things get out of balance, as they are now in the United States of America, civil unrest develops and advances.  The problem is not police departments, it’s civil unrest.  What the wealthy have to consider is that a discontent population becomes disorderly and quickly moves to violence seeking to remedy that unease.  This is what happened to the Romanov family in 1918, when the Russian Czar Nicholas II and his family were removed from power and killed by the Bolsheviks. The danger in my mind for the wealthy then, barring some form of remedy, is this: think of the villagers chasing Frankenstein through the woods with torches and pitch forks. What we need to do is to address civil unrest and its causes and not dismantle a necessary component of society, a well-trained and ethical police department.  What is needed is additional funding channeled into infrastructure, education, healthcare, and many other valuable and necessary social programs to stabilize communities--As I said, the reason protestors want to defund police departments is a good idea, although defunding police departments is not the way to achieve what they desire.    

In regards to police departments and their failings, there is a practical reason for their shortcomings.  The reason police officers are failing is simply this: They are tasked (and in general over-tasked) with things that are at times completely and utterly beyond their level of training, and therefore, competence. Police officers are generally called to respond to almost anything, and are expected to deal with whatever situation arises in a professional manner, at any given time, and to do so without human error. On a day-to day basis, a police officer may respond to an active shooter situation or a noise complaint; a police officer may respond to a traffic accident with serious injuries (and are expected to render first aid) or someone mentally unstable and causing a disturbance (and are expected to deal with the individual as a mental health professional might), or a domestic disturbance (and are expected to handle the situation as a marriage counselor might).  They may be required to control and monitor traffic. They may be required to assist a child in finding a lost pet. Police officers respond to complaints of homeless persons trespassing on private property, neighborhood disputes, drug overdoses, stolen property complaints, bank robberies, burglaries, suicides, riots, bar fights, assaults, murders, the list is a long one, quite a long one, and goes on and on.  I have personally responded to virtually every one of these situations as a police officer and many others; and to complicate matters, situations are always fluid, constantly in flux.  The job is challenging, to say the least. The proper way to address these shortcomings is multi-fold.  First, additional training and more stringent requirements along with better oversight for police officers is needed. The second, limit police officer response to calls that require immediate law enforcement intervention. The third, involve mental health care professionals, social workers, and other community specialists who respond (when safe to do so) and become actively involved in the situation, then follow up with the individual to assist them in mitigating whatever circumstances caused the disturbance.  This does occur, at times—other professional involvement--on some level, but not nearly often enough.  The best solution is to address social issues before they arise; in other words, invest in abating social discontent at the outset by providing good jobs, education, health care services, adequate housing, and other social needs.  Funding is needed for this.  These funds should not come from one community organization to finance another.  They need to come from local, state and federal governments. Governmental funds come from taxation.  A fair and equitable tax scheme needs to be devised and implemented, one that invests in a stable, healthy, and content population.  

In summation, while defunding the police is a bad idea, what protesters are looking for behind the idea of defunding police departments is a good one: Invest funds in infrastructure, education, health care, and other valuable social programs that serve to stabilize communities.  My suggestion is that instead of defunding police departments, limit police officer response to situations that require immediate law enforcement intervention, involve social services, medical healthcare professionals, and other community specialists before, during, and after incidents occur. Also, allow adequate funding for police departments to properly screen, train, and equip police officers, while providing strict oversight to ensure compliance with all local, state, and federal guidelines, laws, and community standards.  And rather than simply reallocating or diverting some portion of funding from police departments, or any other organization, provide extra funding.  I propose that this funding be acquired from addition taxes levied against rich corporate enterprises and their executives, along with a fair tax that is spread across the citizenry as a whole, which will serve to meet community needs and therefore, alleviate civil unrest before it reaches a flashpoint. In other words, invest in the health and welfare of society, which is to everyone’s greater benefit. As a side note and in closing, it may sound as if I am advocating socialism, although I do think it is a beautiful ideal, I am not.  As a species, we are nowhere near evolved enough for it. What I am advocating is balance--a balance of socialism, democracy, and capitalism--and a fair and equitable distribution of wealth along with a commonplace, sensible approach the issues that are currently plaguing society.
         


Donald Dean Mace


Donald Dean Mace is an artist, poet, guitarist and freelance writer living and working quietly in Yuma, Arizona.  He has travelled the world extensively (Europe, Africa and Asia) and in the 1980’s and 1990’s lived and worked in Germany for a total of 10 years.  He has retired twice, once from the US Army and once from US federal service, both careers were in law enforcement.  He is currently working on a novel.  He has been published by Ariel Chart, the Yuma Daily Sun, the Arizona Western College Literary Magazine, his poetry was featured in a public service broadcast, he is Pushcart nominee for poetry, and he was recently a guest on Mark Antony Rossi’s podcast, Strength to be Human.

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8 Comments

  1. F**k the police. This is what they get for being bs bullies.

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    1. Not a good idea to defund them. And equally bad to defund the literary police. Go back to school, foolish person.

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    2. The police exist to safeguard us from the likes of you. You should be ashamed to make such comment. And quite frankly I wonder what this magazine was thinking in allowing garbage talk to remain.

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    3. I, the Editor in Chief, instructed the staff to leave the comment up. Like a defaced statue, we need photographic evidence before condemning the thoughtless. These are days that whatever stand or policy I enforce someone will be disappointed. Take a number. But thanks for commenting.

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  2. Sensible arguments are rare these days with a media only interested in violence and invective. Mr. Mace does the badge and the nation a service with his strong convictions combined with clear verse. We should be proud he's on the side of good.

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  3. hap lewis asked me to stop by. I read the article and can see what you are attempting to do in this journal. I must agree with him although that a line was crossed and you are helping the b*****d get to the other side safely. Free speech means little if society falls apart.

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  4. Mr. Lewis thanks for the readership and your comment. Ariel Chart is a literary publication but when we branched to accept NonFiction we risk, at least in that writing category, a non-artistic subject and tone. I accept responsibility that we may have to take shots now and again. But we are not helping anyone break the law or romanticizing anti-social attitudes. And while it's true an endangered society makes it difficult to appreciate free speech, a failed society will not tolerate You or I. We practice what we preach. It's a lot more than the kids on the streets these days who burn down urban buildings during the day and then rush home at night to the suburbs to eat pie and play video games.

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  5. Sorry guys, Gene and Hap, I must disagree with both of you. As a black man I know firsthand police departments need reform. Defunding is a knee-jerk idea promoted by jerks who seldom have to worry about being stopped by police. Support civil society but realize it cannot remain civil with people divided by color instead of united by conscience.

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