"The Dangers of #defundthepolice" by Noelle S. Dahl
When I log onto Instagram and scroll through people’s stories, I am too often bombarded by the same three-word statement—defund the police. Those of us who repost articles that are centered on defunding or abolishing the police have decent intentions. Over the past four or five months, unjust shootings and killings of Black men and women by police officers have been deeply publicized to prove that racial injustices exist in our country. Advocating for police reform and change is a reasonable response to these injustices and we should exercise our right to protest; however, demanding that the police be defunded and abolished will innately endanger more people. While I support the reallocation of police funding, I do not support wholly defunding or even abolishing the police. Here’s why:
Completely defunding or abolishing the police force will imperil everyone, but more specifically women and those who would substitute police officers. Defunding the police is often linked with advising people to stop calling 911 and instead contact a mental health professional or social worker to reduce the intensity of a potentially violent situation. I would argue that telling people, especially women who may be in abusive households, to refrain from calling 911 is unintentionally putting their lives at risk. It may be putting a woman’s children’s lives at risk as well. There is a reason we have both social workers and police officers. The reason? Because not all violent situations can be de-escalated without the use of force.
Violent situations should, of course, be met with the least amount of force as possible, but should be able to respond accordingly to situations that may be lethal for the victim. Social workers and mental health responders can prove to be a valuable resource when paired with a well-trained police force, but they are still only equipped to respond to situations they have been trained to take on. So when movements like BLM calls for the abolition of the police force, they may also be inadvertently calling for the elimination of a woman’s safety net. Yes, I do recognize that when officers are not trained to the standard we need, incidents like what happened to Breonna Taylor occur and many of us would agree that our police force is not only fractured but incompetent. This being said, we must consider all the effects of advocating for the abolition of police and some of those effects greatly impact Black women. Turns out, Black women suffer domestic violence and sexual assault more than any other population in the United States. They are 35% more likely to be a victim of domestic violence than white women. This is why I suggest that advising people to no longer call the police is irresponsible and could have dire impacts on our community.
There must be a distinction between social workers and the police force. Police are expected to respond accordingly to whatever situation they are faced with, violent or nonviolent. Social workers and mental health professionals, although a useful resource, should not be expected to walk into a potentially lethal situation. Their training does not include directly responding to violence. This is why we should direct our attention to police reform.
So, should police officer training be reformed? Absolutely! Does this mean we need to abolish the police? No. We should not abolish the police in the same way we should not abolish our education system. When the education system has faults, we increase training and reallocate resources. Reforming the police involves increased training as opposed to defunding. Currently, police officers do not have adequate training to deal with all situations they face. I would suggest that police officer have two to four full shifts a month dedicated to scenario-based training and increase the requirements needed to qualify for becoming an officer. This would hone a police officer’s situational awareness and prevent more unmerited shootings from happening. Increasing qualifications will rule out people who have difficult times responding to high-stress situations.
We can recognize racial injustices and advocate for police reform without abolishing the police. If we did abolish the police, casualties will increase and vigilantism will teem, perhaps in detrimental ways. A well trained and empathetic police force paired with qualified mental health professionals will foster a more positive relationship between citizens and our criminal justice system. We need both to prosper.
Feminist Majority Foundation’s Choices Campus Campaign, “Women of Color and Reproductive Justice: African
American Women.” Available at: http://www.feministcampus.org/fmla/printable-+materials/WomenofColor/AfricanAmericanWomen.pdf