Back The Blue With Proper Funding

Why Defunding the Police Isn’t the Answer

Nearly every week, and sometimes every day, there is another news headline about a police involved action against an unarmed person of color. The death of George Floyd, under the knee of former officer Derek Chauvin, gave light to the pandemic of police involved killings. Just like the Covid-19 pandemic, the police killing pandemic spread uncontrolled across the United States in the following months. Walter Wallace Jr. in Philadelphia, Daniel Prude in Rochester, Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta, and closest to home, 13 year old Pilsen resident Adam Toledo. Whether these police officers are guilty of misconduct, or innocent and justified, lives are lost every day from direct police action.

Following Floyd’s death, “defund the police” became a rally chant echoed through the summer protests and up to the floor of the United States House of Representatives. Parker students repost the slogan on their Instagram stories. The real question, however, is whether anyone understands the real consequences of defunding the police. 

Defunding the police is not abolishing police departments. The Brookings Institute sets out the truth of defunding the police, which is allocating funds away from traditional law enforcement, and not hanging up the badges and holsters of every officer. What this actually leaves behind is a huge mistake of underfunded police departments.

Ngozi Adichie, in her story, One Cell, succinctly establishes the danger of an underfunded police department. While Adichie does not even mention police funding, her discussion of a “cult problem” at universities across Nigeria, in which policemen drive “their rickety blue Peugeot 505, (with) rusty guns poking out of the car windows,” as compared to the cult boys with “more modern guns” centers around the failure of justice and law enforcement. Further, Adichie’s underfunded police, who are paid an average of $1060 per month despite the average cost of living for a family of 4 being $2100, take bribes of food and money in exchange for leniency for suspected cult members. In Adichie’s Nigeria, the massive underfunding of the Nigerian police results in a reversed power dynamic between criminals and the police and a system completely lacking in fairness and justice. As Adichie shows low police funding is not the answer to policing problems, the solution is to swing the pendulum to the opposite side. We need to superfund the police.

Police departments across the United States possess top tier equipment and users without the necessary training to maximize the investment of tax dollars. America values highly trained professionals. Doctors and lawyers undertake nearly a decade or more of post high school training and complete rigorous licensure exams. Police academy is 6 months of training and one certification test. Despite this disparity in training, one of these professions carries a deadly weapon.

The idea of super training police is not particularly novel. German police recruits spend two and a half to four years in basic training and, at the end of the training, may pursue the “equivalent of a bachelor’s or master’s degree in policing.” Dutch training takes nearly four years to complete. The result of this increased training: fewer civilians die at the hands of the police. Where American police kill 33.5 civilians for every 10 million people, it is closer to 3.5 civilians in both Germany and the Netherlands. “If you only have 21 weeks of classroom training, naturally you’re going to emphasize survival,” said Paul Hirschfield, an associate sociology and criminal-justice professor at Rutgers University. 

Police departments must be superfunded to provide training beyond survival if the goal is to end the pandemic of police killing unarmed civilians. Police departments must be superfunded to provide a professional salary, attract top tier officers, and provide resources that result in little need to draw a weapon. Policing should be a noble profession, recognized by society as valued professional public servants, rather than a career of last resort for someone with anger management issues.  

Nothing will bring Adam Toledo back to life. Defunding the Chicago Police Department probably wouldn’t have helped Adam any more than it prevented the campus cults in Adichie’s One Cell. Those who advocate for taking funding away from the police are falling for a slogan and trendy click bait. If true reform is the goal, the slogan must change from “defund the police” to “superfund the police.”