Reader Writes

Defunding the police may sound like a radical idea to some… to others, not radical enough. There are so many that are extremely uncomfortable with the thought of cutting law enforcement spending. But there also seems to be a large amount of misconception about the Defund Police Movement. I feel like it is somewhat understandable because the name implies completely stripping the police of their budget, and it’s not that simple.

The “end game” of this movement is creating a community without the need for police. Creating a system of justice that rehabilitates and educates offenders in a way to, not only stop the revolving door of the current system, but also literally close that door permanently. So Defund Police is actually an honest name, but it is sadly being misconstrued into something to fear.

There are many steps that must be taken in order to achieve such an inconceivable outcome. The first of these steps is acknowledging that we are asking the police to do too much. Every systemic failure in recent history has been dumped on the police: drug addiction, poverty, mental health, animal control, domestic violence, school safety. Anytime we, as a society, fail to prevent suffering of any kind, we hand that problem over to the police with the expectation that they will solve the problem without being properly trained or equipped to handle it. These are things that the police will never be able to solve no matter how much money they spend trying.

By removing some of these “responsibilities,” the police will be able to focus on the things proven to be beneficial to public safety. Fewer responsibilities means less money being spent by law enforcement and more money that can be budgeted to programs and departments that have been neglected for years.

Here in Blount County, around 55 percent of the entire county budget goes to public safety, 35 percent goes to general government, 5 percent to health, 3 percent to recreation, and 1 percent to education. If we shifted spending from law enforcement to things like education, health, and recreation, we would see a crime reduction due to a better communal feeling of self worth and unity through public events and activities. Simply put, the happier and the healthier people are, and the more positive things they have to attend or be a part of, the less they want or feel they need to commit crime.

Not only must there be a reallocation of funding, but also a restructuring of how we view crime within our community. Instead of simply punishing someone for WHAT they did, we must address WHY they did what they did and WHY they thought that breaking the law was worth the risk of incarceration and several other obstacles that they may never be able to overcome.

By seeing and treating each other with dignity and humanity through rehabilitation and opportunity of various betterment programs, the ones that break the law would be far less likely to become repeat offenders. No more so than those that break the law due to circumstances like mental health, addiction, or, just simply, necessity.

It would undoubtedly take some time to adjust. There are many of us that will reject any change to the current system because of complacency and a blindness exacerbated by generational privilege.

Remember, the system we have today may be better than it’s ever been, but that doesn’t mean that it’s as good as it could be OR as good as it should be. It definitely doesn’t mean we should continue perpetuating the system that has failed so many of our loved ones and claimed so many innocent lives.

-Robert H. Sweatman II, Cleveland