Don’t Defund Police Departments: A Plea

Don’t Defund Police Departments: A Plea

Ethan Bauck ’22

After the death of George Floyd, calls to “defund the police” have risen. While this message has existed for a while, it has gained significant traction in the modern political landscape. The intentions of those wishing to defund departments vary, ranging from slight budget reductions to total abolition of police forces. Oftentimes, decreasing funds to police departments is painted in a rosy light and viewed as the majority opinion. However, it would be dangerous for anyone to assume that defunding is a popular and moral policy proposal.

The number one reason cited for defunding the police is that it would cause a reduction in crime. When asked to offer statistics, supporters of this movement often never supply the numbers requested and instead embrace nebulous theories. However, reality is based on facts and data, not random theories. When there are more police officers, there is a reduction in violent crime; thus defunding the police, which would slash the number of officers, would increase violent crime rates. Academia and research support this belief. From 2011-2017, Memphis cut its officer-civilian ratio by 21% because of budget cuts. During that same period, violent crime rates skyrocketed by 31.2%. Violent crime finally fell when the city hired more officers in 2018. Another argument in support of defunding is that funding police departments detract from social welfare programs. Once again, statistics prove this claim wrong. An article from the 2018 Review of Economics and Statistics reviewed data sets from 1960-2010 and concluded that every $1.00 spent on policing generated $1.63 in social benefits.

Despite the overwhelming amount of statistics demonstrating why defunding the police is a bad idea, supporters of defunding continue to close their eyes to reality. They claim that they do not care about what the facts stated and instead insist that we must defund because it is, in their opinion, what is best for minority communities. Do minority communities desire a reduction in the police? The answer is a simple no. A recent poll conducted by Gallup determined that an overwhelming 81% of Black Americans, 83% of Hispanic Americans and 72% of Asian Americans do not want any reduction in policing. Beyond a simple depletion in policing levels, defunding the police is also unpopular. According to an ABC News/Ipsos poll, more than two thirds of Americans do not want to defund the police.

I could go on citing data and polls, such as how only 15% of Americans desire the abolition of police or how shootings increased in NYC over 130% after the termination of the plainclothes anti-crime unit. I could construct the case of how defunding police would contribute to an increase in lethal encounters and harm minority communities. I could cite every single statistic and poll, but many of those who support defunding will choose to remain obstinate and refuse to acknowledge the facts. This debate around defunding the police represents a broader issue in the American political discourse. In order for us to move forward, we need to respect others’ ideas as well as academics, research, and statistics. Until people listen to one another with open minds, we will continue to hurt the ones we need to help the most.

Protests to defund the police have gained traction in the months following George Floyd’s death.

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