The Societal Risk of Mentally De-funding the Police

Since the George Floyd incident at the end of May, there have calls for and actions by city councils across this country to de-fund the police. Here are just a few:

  • Minneapolis, MN led the charge by voting to disband its police department
  • Baltimore, MD city council approved a $22.4 million budget cut for their police department
  • Portland, OR cut $15 million from their police budget
  • Philadelphia PA cancelled a planned increase for their police of $19 million and shifted $14 million to affordable housing
  • New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Milwaukee, Denver, Durham NC, Winston-Salem, Chicago are just some of the more prominent cities to take aim at law enforcement

The “defund-the-police” movement claims that they are diverting funds to other social programs to address the underlying issues of crime such as poverty, mental health and drug addiction. I’m not going to get into an argument on this, but I want to address the larger, societal issue that is taking place with law enforcement and that all citizens need to understand will greatly impact their lives.

The fiscal (monetary) de-funding of police will (and has) cause a major shift in police services. What is overlooked is that it also creates a mental de-funding of police that will lead to a major societal shift. Because of the actions of a few rogue, ill-intended cops, the remaining well intentioned truly good hearted cops have had their mental bank account negatively impacted.

There is grave danger ahead for all of American society when you both fiscally and mentally defund your law enforcement. Let me explain.

Police in the 21st century have made tremendous and numerous strides to implement programs such as community policing and developing proactive strategies and initiatives that, until 2020 and the de-fund police movement, have resulted in the most significant reduction in crime in modern history. The efforts included hiring large numbers of African American and Hispanic officers, more female officers, school resource officers, implementing the D.A.R.E. program, creating and funding community-oriented policing where cops literally lived and certainly worked within some of the most impoverished and disadvantaged communities within our cities and towns. The goal was not only to humanize cops, but to help cops re-connect with the communities they served. In doing so, high school graduation rates increased, violent crime dropped dramatically, and positive partnerships were formed between law enforcement and those communities where crime is a way of life. I’m not sure at all how defunding these programs and diverting them to other social programs accomplishes results like that?

This is no accident.

Results like this come from years and years of building trust within our communities and police being “all-in.” We had spent a generation of police leaders (myself included) creating the guardian model of policing and removing the warrior image.

Unfortunately, because of recent events, law enforcement has been blamed for a majority of the racial ills in America. This is preposterous. Police are not the problem when it comes to race. WE ARE ALL THE PROBLEM! To assert that by de-funding the police, we will somehow all emerge in a post-racist America is foolish and narrow-minded. How did that work in CHOP or CHAZ in Seattle? Two dead teens and millions of dollars in lost commerce not to mention the multitude of assaults, rapes and other crimes just now being reported? That was a perfect example of a police-free society – worked really well, don’t you think?

The false narrative of de-funding the police will lead all of us into an abyss that some might call anarchy and others might see as a daily version of the movie “The Purge.”

Our society is based on social justice that includes a strong military, the rule of law and yes, a police force. These are the guardians of our society. If we lose one of those guardians of freedom, we will cease to be America the great and become America the fallen.

Communities must take a serious look at the damage they are doing to the mental (and emotional) bank accounts of their law enforcement officers who do NOT do the job for the money, but for the right reasons such as serving and protecting. Most cops I know (including myself) care deeply about their communities and the people they serve. They spend countless hours after a shift working with kids or helping an ex-con to straighten up, get their GED and a job. When local elected officials do not support their law enforcement or make incendiary comments about law enforcement such as Mayor DeBlasio has done, the mental de-funding begins and leads to a rapid descent to more and more scenes like we have seen in Seattle, and are seeing in Portland, OR not to mention the continued and increasing  violence of Chicago.

The way we are treating cops today is reminiscent of how we treated returning soldiers from Vietnam, many of whom had been drafted into the war and served their country with pride and dignity only to return to an ungrateful country that did not value their service or sacrifice. It changed the psyche of an entire generation of veterans and led to tremendous mental illness among those veterans. Is this what we want for our police officers? We certainly risk the same with our chants of de-funding the police and that blue lives don’t matter.

The mayor of Seattle was certainly right about one thing when she was quoted as saying this is “the summer of love” as she referred to the protesters who took over the seven blocks in the central business district of her town. It really should be the “summer of love” for what police do every day and for what they stand for as protectors of our great nation and cities.

Citizens should think long and hard about what mentally de-funding cops means. When a profession is so attacked and so scapegoated for all of the ills of society, it will create a crisis. We have one right now. Many current or retired cops were sons and daughters of cops. Today, when I ask an average class I teach of law enforcement professionals how many want their children to become cops, less than a third raise their hand. This week while talking to the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police (about 500 professionals) I asked the same question – not one hand was raised. This is a compelling gesture that shows we don’t want our kids following in our footsteps.

Folks and fellow citizens, that’s where most of our law enforcement is recruited. We have a recruiting and retention crisis in law enforcement nationally. The media has made sure of that we daily stories of the “bad” things the 1% of cops do and completely ignoring the great things the rest do. I guess it’s the old adage of journalism that ‘man bites dog’ stories are always more sensational. Well, its reached a crisis. As we continue to mentally (and emotionally) de-fund our law enforcement officials, we risk having a Chicago, a Seattle CHAZ zone, a Portland, Oregon anarchy reign come to a city near you. Our men and women in blue are there for you in your time of need, will you be there for them? Will you back the blue?

 

Author * Instructor * Mentor

Dean Crisp

“Our men and women in blue are there for you in your time of need, will you be there for them?”

 

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