Defunding Policing vs De-valuing Lives

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From the Trump Lafayette Square fortress.

Many are challenged when it comes to thinking differently on how we hold one another accountable in community. Each year, governments are faced with choices on how they will distribute resources — you give them through your taxes — for public safety. In those negotiations, some cut funding for teachers, but allocate resources for “resource officers”. School nurses and counselors get stripped from staff rolls. After-school programs are under-funded, so parents (who can afford it) have to pay to allow their children to gain additional skills and sports opportunities. Poorer households — and the children in them — lose out. That is very separate and, woefully, unequal.

The candidates for every office are being faced with this prison reform proposition. The debates regarding the cries to “defund the police” are growing. What’s clear is that schools and other agencies should be taken to task for how they are spending their public money. What’s working and what’s wasteful is a discussion no one should be afraid to have.

What’s essential and what’s excessive in your city budget?

That’s what you hire elected officials to figure out. It’s YOUR job, as a tax paying citizen, to tell them if they are doing the right thing or not. Too often, only a handful of people show up for budget conversations. we elect people and let them figure it out. We need the people protesting in all 50 states to speak to their elected officials at hearings and at the ballot box. We cannot be absentee citizens any longer.

Show Us The Money

Did you know that some communities are acquiring some weapons of war from the U.S. military, because they can? While some 1033 acquisitions make sense (cold weather gear), others items (humvees, for example) have no regular practical use. But, they have to be maintained & require training to use (more money & more money).

Police unions and some politicians insist they need more, not less money for policing. But, are they looking at the return on their/our investment? Witnessing the horrible killing of George Floyd created a visceral and global response. However, each year, there are 1,000 civilians killed by police. Who’s looking at the human cost?

The political ads are already being written — ressurected from Richard Nixon’s successful presidential campaign. Nixon centered a “Law and order” theme to win the White House, while he betrayed our democracy (sound familiar?). Wand raises it now, since he had to be rushed to the WWII White House panic room (he denied it; AG Barr politely called him a liar).

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Don’t believe the Hype

“Defund the Police” is the counter-protest to the incessant call for more weaponry on our streets to make us safer. What is the rationale for sending a police officer — not trained in psychology or medicine or domestic strife — into places where experts are needed? Officers should be the first to admit that they aren’t trained or prepared for many of what they’re called to “resolve”. The Trump administration & friends are, predictably, condemning the righteous protestors who are calling for a new way to protect and serve. Fueling fear and staging false attempts at strength won’t make us any safer. If they were honest, they would admit that a gun and badge isn’t needed for every situation.

Before ‘Rona, crime rates have been falling, overall, in the country. Perhaps the fear of crime in communities is fueled by the saturation of real, fiction and the combination, “ripped from the headlines”, TV shows they permeate the 24/7 airwaves. A 2016 report identified over 300 police TV shows have been produced on American airwaves. Add reruns, the Hollywood crime movie obsession, PEOPLE Magazine and you have traumatized America’s subconscious. Fortunately, Cops, the infamous FOX tv show that relegates policing & crime, has recently been cancelled. But, an Arts & Entertainment (A&E) show, Live PD, recently released footage, which shows Javier Ambler declaring he couldn’t breathe. No one released this before now? Why would such a show be considered arts or entertainment in the first place? And, how many bad apples are out there, who aren’t being recorded as civilians are dying while on custody? Asking for anybody who’s listening.

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The NFL now sees the light about racial in justice in America, and is looking to increase its engagement in supporting racial justice. Some political and citizen “patriots” still don’t get it, though. Taking a knee was never about the flag, but those seeking to divide used it to rally & revel in racism. For them, it’s easier to promote division instead of imagining an America that’s safer for all. Ironically, those who are defending the flag are silent at how the president has disgraced the nation before the world.

What’s in your city wallet?

Congress is moving at light speed (for Congress, anyway), by putting some bills on the table to hasten justice reform strategies. Los Angeles’ mayor has already committed to redirecting money from the huge police budget, to support local organizations. This Marketplace conversation featuring National Urban League President, Marc Morial, discusses the settlements and other incalculable costs from police misconduct and a system that isn’t equitable for all people.

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The current administration — which has tear gassed peaceful protestors and deployed the American military against Americans — won’t be happy about this. The Trump administration undid President Obama’s policy that served us (yes, again), which reduced the ability for local police to acquire military equipment. You should ask your mayor and city council representative about their policies governing unnecessary expenses within police departments. The cost to communities is considerable and will, likely, never be known. That’s how you can make sure money is better spent and you can defund the excess police budgets. There will be resistance. However, the people in the streets around the world are rejecting status quo policing & funding. It would be wise for people like presidential candidate Joe Biden or Rep. James Clyburn to look beyond the phrase and understand the intent behind the phrase “defund the police”. Their opponents fail at understanding logical concepts. Remember, they’re the same folks who condemned global warming as our climate was changing.

Defunding Policing = Funding Lives

I’ve lost track of the times I’ve seen news reports, where civilians are caught with arsenals, or have shootouts with police. The recent protests and other incidents have given police the opportunity to show off (or crave) military weapons to stop fellow Americans from exercising their 1st Amendment rights. Everyone who has damaged their vehicles from potholes or have seen teachers pay for school supplies should be outraged at local governments that are directing towards policing — including military weapons and legal settlements. The calls to defund the police can scare those who think more policing equates to more public safety. It enrages those with a bunker mentality — which 45 clearly has. Both factions should do their homework.

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Let’s be clear, we don’t need militarized local forces. Nor, do we need police who are forced to respond to issues that don’t require law enforcement. We should listen to facts and not get caught up in the polarized disinformation that is running rampant. Phillip Atiba Goff, co-founder of the Center for Police Accountability, and others are offering great guidance on what defunding could look like. We should be able to agree that something needs to be done and we should all agree that police who shoot children, use a knee to kill, shoot tear gas at peaceful demonstrators, shooting someone in their bed or push down elderly people. Imagine your surviving family member were to appear before Congress, to testify to stop future deaths. Philonise Floyd, George Floyd’s brother, worked through personal pain, in a passionate attempt to protect future families from similar trauma. In November, and in future elections, you have the power to vote for those who want to protect and serve you and your family.

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I invite you to take 2 to 5 minutes for a glimpse of what I think about issues of the day. Nonpartisan, yet, some might not agree - just don’t be disagreeable.

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