Author: Nate Stitt, Greenhill School '23
Reallocate police funds to a community watch patrol, reinvest in education and social work while still keeping funds in necessary specialized sectors of law enforcement.
In light of George Floyd’s murder, protests have risen up all over the country and the world. These protests have brought police brutality to light. In order to make permanent societal change and to eliminate police brutality, we must re-examine the root cause of this issue — what has contributed to the establishment of the status quo and how can we fix it?
Petty crime is “a type of crime that is not considered serious when compared with some other crimes,” according to the Cambridge Dictionary. Why do people commit petty crimes such as shoplifting? If someone lacks the resources necessary to live well, they may resort to petty crime if all other options have been exhausted. In an ideal society, petty crime should not be necessary.
So, how can we reduce petty crime?
Well, if we look back to the root cause, we know that people commit petty crime because of a lack of resources. Considering this, we can provide services that ensure are well-funded that provide readily available resources. One of these necessary services is education. Education leads to a reduction in crime. There are numerous theories why, but the general consensus of researchers is that more time spent in the education system reduces the need to commit crimes. In order to accomplish this, we must reinvest funds into education so that petty crime does not seem like the only means of survival for people lacking this resource. We should take these funds from the police budget, as it will reduce the need for police as a whole in the long-term if there is less crime.
The goal of a police force is to “serve and protect” their community, but we know that our current system of policing isn’t fulfilling this mission. Therefore, we should create a community watch patrol. Community watch patrols have been proven to make people feel safe — it reduces fear. In many cases, people of color feel scared to call the police during an emergency because they feel that the police would cause more harm than good or that the police wouldn’t believe them. Creating a community watch patrol helps to minimize this fear and makes communities safer.
Social Workers and Police
In Dallas, the city that I preside in, the police force currently is in charge of mental health calls, truancy cases, homelessness, and many other types of scenarios that social workers are better equipped to deal with.
Most would assume that a social worker would handle these scenarios, similarly to how most other developed countries such as Canada and Australia do so. Yet, the police are put in charge. Social workers are required to have 4-6 years of schooling, while a police officer is only required to complete 18 months of schooling. Additionally, social workers are trained for these particular situations, while police officers are not.
These numbers show that we should not allocate money to the police department to help in these types of scenarios. Instead, we should relocate this money to social workers. We can increase their salary, solidify social work training, and have the ability to hire more of them. Through this, our community would be safer.
As former Dallas Police Chief David Brown said, “We’re asking cops to do too much.”
How do we know that relocating police funds works? Simply look at the city of Camden, New Jersey. Camden was known for having lots of murder and violent crime. “In 2012 the city violent crime rate in Camden was higher than the violent crime rate in New Jersey by 784.2%,” according to the FBI Report of Offenses Known to Law Enforcement. The city recognized that something wasn’t working, so Camden’s city council voted to completely abolish the police department. What was the result? There was a 43% decrease in crime and people were safer. Why? Because people feel safer when they can trust those who are supposed to serve and protect them.
I am not advocating for a total abolition of the police. I want to make that clear. However, there is clear evidence that a change in the way law enforcement exists can lead to a safer society.
Specialized Sectors of Law Enforcement
Law Enforcement, in some form, is still necessary to have in society. Currently, there are specialized sectors of law enforcement that are essential to keeping stability. Some examples of these are homicide units, the bomb squad, the gang unit, etc.
We should continue to fund these specialized sectors of law enforcement so that our society is protected from intricate crime that the community watch patrol does not have the training to protect us from.
Let’s make better law enforcement by funding those who have the training to support those in need. Let’s make our society safer by reallocating funds to our education budget to lower petty crime. Let’s keep specialized sectors of law enforcement to make sure we can deal with intricate crime.
Let’s relocate police funds.
"Camden Crime Statistics: New Jersey (NJ) - Cityrating.Com". 2020. Cityrating.Com. https://www.cityrating.com/crime-statistics/new-jersey/camden.html#:~:text=Camden%20Crime%20Rate%20Report%20(New%20Jersey)&text=In%202012%20the%20city%20violent,in%20New%20Jersey%20by%20158.87%25.
Hannah-Jones, Nikole. 2020. "Yes, Black America Fears The Police. Here’s Why.". Propublica. https://www.propublica.org/article/yes-black-america-fears-the-police-heres-why.
Justice, Criminal. 2020. "Education And Crime - Criminal Justice - Iresearchnet". Criminal Justice. https://criminal-justice.iresearchnet.com/crime/education-and-crime/4/#:~:text=Most%20empirical%20studies%20have%20addressed%20the%20relationship%20between%20education%20and%20crime.&text=States%20with%20higher%20levels%20of,with%20lower%20college%20enrollment%20rates.
"Mental Health & Law Enforcement". 2020. NAMI North Texas. https://www.naminorthtexas.org/mental-health--law-enforcement.html.
Courtesy of Nate Stitt