Here We Go Again: The Fundamental Flaw of Defunding the Police, and What to Do Instead

Editor's note: This guest column was submitted by Andres Boland. Andres, a former writer for RTF's previous iteration, The People's View, is a Minnesota native and excels in issues of national importance with a local focus.

Photo Credit: Office of Rep. Karen Bass. US government work.

Today marked the funeral of yet another young young Black man who was unjustly killed by the police. George Floyd’s killer’s trial hadn’t even concluded when Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black father was shot and killed by a white police officer in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center. The police chief is making the incredulous claim that the officer meant to tase, not shoot, Wright.

In a change of pace, however, the officer was quickly arrested and charged. Her trial is now pending.

The usual suspects are saying that if Daunte had only obeyed orders, he would still be alive. Never mind the fact that many of these same people have for more than a full year gone out of their way to proudly disobey basic measures to keep COVID-19 in check and that even Black Americans who comply perfectly with an officer’s orders way too often end up dead during routine traffic stops.

But the customary calls of “Defund the Police” are also being made. Michigan Representative Rashida Tlaib called for an immediate end of law enforcement and prisons. In the Twin Cities, the usual suspects are calling for the police to be defunded and social services to magically make violent people nonviolent.

Diagnosing the Problem: What Usual Suspects Get Right

Law enforcement is used for way too many purposes, and incarceration is used far too often for nonviolent offenses. In addition, the wrong people are frequently incarcerated, whereas the people who really do belong behind bars often go free because of their skin color or money.

As a matter of historical record, enforcing slavery was part of law enforcement’s job as an institution during those horrific days. In addition, law enforcement was the main tool used to enforce Jim Crow laws. Even today, American law enforcement has serious problems with racism, excessive force, and solving sexual assault cases.

Where the Fundamental Flaws Begin

All institutions and all fields in America have just as serious problems with institutionalized racism as does law enforcement. The consequences of this racism are just as serious in these places as they are in the legal system.

For example, thanks in large part to racism inside American medicine, Black women are three times more likely than White women to die from childbirth complications. Black Americans also are less likely to have their pain taken seriously by doctors and are less likely than White Americans to receive necessary treatments for life-threatening conditions.

The result is that Black Americans have a shorter life expectancy than do White Americans.

In addition, the history of many facets of American medicine when it comes to race are straight out of a horror movie.

Much of modern-day gynecology is built on the work of Dr. James Marion Sims. This was a doctor who conducted much of his research using enslaved women as test subjects without their consent and without anesthesia even when it became widely available. Not surprisingly, many of these women either died or suffered lifelong complications.

The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male is another crowning example of American racism in medicine. Several hundred Black men in rural Alabama who were identified as having contracted syphilis were neither told of their diagnosis nor treated for the illness for several decades in an experiment to see could see how the disease operates untreated.

I mention American medicine here to show that the logic of people who advocate for police abolition can also be used to advocate for the defunding and abolition of literally every profession and institution in America.

What makes American law enforcement any different from American medicine or education when the racism inside these fields has just as serious consequences for people of color, Black Americans especially? Why should these fields not be abolished or defunded?

The Biggest Problems with “Defunding the Police” from a Policy Perspective

“Defund the Police” is a potent weapon to use against Democrats during election seasons. That alone is a reason it should not be used.

But electoral considerations are cited as not important by a many when discussing public safety and police misconduct. So I will approach this from a different angle.

Whether they are aware of it or not, proponents of “Defund the Police” are using the same line of reasoning that Republicans use when they want to defund public schools.

What’s more, the situation without a law enforcement apparatus is more potentially damaging, and not only because American civilians are even worse about using deadly force than your average police officer if given the chance.

The phenomenon of racist white people itching for an excuse to kill their Black neighbors is not limited to the MAGA world. In Seattle, the Capitol Hill Occupied Zone, or CHOP (also known as the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, or CHAZ), was an occupation of a few blocks of the city of Seattle, concentrated in the Capitol Hill area, hence the name. Keep in mind these protesters were anything but allies of the Seattle Police Department.

The occupation lasted only a week, but the occupiers murdered a Black teenager and hospitalized at least one other. They were killing Black people at a faster rate than the Minneapolis Police Department, and that’s saying something.

When the Minneapolis City Council announced that they were going to disband the MPD with no plan, it caused a panic within an already traumatized city. Moreover, it came with a spike in violent crime. The city’s 38th and Chicago neighborhood is more unsafe than ever for the residents, a majority of whom are people of color.

The point is that Americans cannot be trusted to police themselves. Fundamentally, professionals are required to maintain public safety.

Moreover, genuine evil that cannot be explained away by trauma or culture exists in people. Do you think that the terrorists who attacked the Capitol need counseling or actual consequences? What do people propose to do with men like Harvey Weinstein, and Larry Nasser, men who will always be dangerous to women and girls no matter what treatment they receive? Does anyone have an idea what to do with convicted murderer Derek Chauvin, who put his knee on the neck of a fourteen-year-old and has killed at least four other people before murdering George Floyd?

It’s a sign that you don’t care about someone if you just say the person who hurt them “had a bad day” when they do something intentional that gets someone sent to the hospital or the morgue.

What to Do Instead: Proposals Going Forward

Of course, a lot can be done to make the American legal system work better for everyone.

First and foremost, the legal doctrine of qualified immunity must be thrown into the dustbin of history. This doctrine helps cops get away with everything under the sun, including murder. Fortunately and unfortunately, while Congress can create incentives to ban the practice, ultilmately this is a state-level fight. Demand that your state representatives and senators work to abolish qualified immunity as a defense.

So far, only Colorado and Connecticut have abolished the doctrine of qualified immunity.

Click here on how to find who represents you at the state legislative level.

At the local level, actively support sheriffs and county attorneys who will go to battle for these urgently needed reforms. When they encounter pushback from within or from White liberals who complain they have not fixed everything overnight, fight like the KHive to defend them. Campaign and vote in these elections. They can make huge differences.

For example, I am very proud of how the County Attorney for Ramsey County, home to St. Paul, John Choi, has made the Ramsey County Attorney’s office fairer and more just. He knows when to offer help and when to come down hard (on human traffickers and sexual predators especially).

Come 2022, I will be proud to support him.

It would be wise to encourage women and people of color to become police officers and prosecutors. Both fields are currently overwhelmingly White and male. If encouraging people of color to enter high-ranking roles in both teaching and healthcare is wise, then the same applies to law enforcement and the legal system.

Encourage your representative and senator to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act at the federal level. Click here to contact your representative, and click here to contact your senator. It will not fix everything, but it will help things move forward.

Finally, understand that systemic issues—especially systemic racism—take time to fix.

Stay safe, everyone.

Like what you read? Leave a Tip. 

💰 Fund the Fight

Like what you read? Leave a Tip. 

💰 Fund the Fight