Defunding the Police

Elijah Bullie, Feature Editor

In the wake of the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement has seen a major resurgence, with protests against police brutality spreading like wildfire throughout all 50 states, and across the world. The movement itself is nothing new; this recent wave has garnered particular interest on a new frontier: defunding the police. With the eyes of the world fixed on the U.S. law enforcement system, many believe that it’s time for radical change. The current model of community policing is largely outmoded, with the first  full-time, publicly funded police department in the U.S. being founded nearly 100 years before the invention of sliced bread. It’s clearly time for a change, and divesting from traditional styles of policing is an exciting new frontier in the community and social progress of the U.S. Contrary to what some think, I believe abolition isn’t entirely necessary; however what is necessary is a reallocation of funds that are given to an organization that’s simply out of its depth. 

In its current state, the police are expected to be responsible for being on call for a slew of duties that would be much better handled by social workers. Calls regarding domestic disputes, homelessness, and mental health would all be much better handled by trained professionals whose careers are centered around human resources as opposed to law enforcement. In a recent interview with the Omaha World-Herald, the Omaha Chief of Police Todd Schmaderer stated that only 30% of the department has received mental health crisis intervention training. When presented with a high pressure situation involving an individual in psychological distress, accompanied with whatever predetermined biases present, a police officer without adequate training could very easily make a mistake, and in some cases, a fatal one. Partial reallocation of funds from the police department into social programs will help alleviate some of the pressure and responsibilities placed on police officers, and improve infrastructure for those working in social programs. 

These methods have been proven successful in such nations as Switzerland. The Swiss have one of the lowest crime rates in the world, and the reason is clear: they prioritize improving the lives of their citizens instead of keeping them in check. They put large emphasis on social programs, according to Britannica, including their compulsory federal health insurance and their aid for destitute families. Their world-class health and social services account for more than a quarter of government spending. This is the kind of radical shift in ideology that could be useful in the U.S. Instead of funding police departments to enforce law and order, we could instead provide opportunities and safety nets for citizens, therefore alleviating the need for excessive punishment. 

Eating up more than a third of the city’s day to day spending, the Omaha Police Department is given funding that could be significantly better spent elsewhere. Though the idea of removing money from law enforcement seems radical, it could just be the next step in our social development as a community. Imagine in 30 years children growing up in a world focused on achieving high expectations set for themselves, instead of fearing the consequences of falling short.