Is It Time To Rethink Policing In America?
*This post was updated on Monday, July 20, at 4:10 p.m.
The recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black individuals during encounters with law enforcement officers sparked protests and renewed calls for police reform in cities throughout the U.S.
Demands to "defund the police" have become part of mainstream discussions about police brutality, with people calling for new ways to protect and defend that don't involve the use of deadly force, especially in communities of color.
Supporters say reallocated funds could go toward improving and expanding social services, thereby relieving pressure on police officers to handle calls that do not immediately require violence.
“I think that what I want people to understand is the police don't enact the law. They are trained to do and enforce the law that the government set,” said Ron DeLord, attorney and founder of the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas.
This reimagining of public safety responsibilities also includes the demilitarization of police departments, updated deescalation practicies and implicit bias training, as well as funding towards services which address the root causes of many crimes — poverty, mental illness and addiction.
DeLord said he believes the death of George Floyd has been a tipping point for the “defund the police” movement.
“It's bigger than let's, you know, fire all the Minneapolis police and start over and change their name,” he said. “That's got the United States to stop and think about the systemic racism that's built into our criminal justice system. It falls so heavily on people of color in poor people in our justice system in our jails.”
In June, the City of San Antonio held three listening sessions after hundreds took to the streets for days on end to demand justice for victims of police brutality and advocate for change.
Other Texas cities including Houston and Austin started dialogues about policing amid the social upheaval. There's been some movement on the state level, as well. Will these conversations and proposals amount to real change?
Policy proposals include increasing accountability for officers and taking power back from unions; demilitarizing police departments and prioritizing deescalation over use-of-force tactics; making public safety budgeting a transparent and public process; community policing and more.
What does real police reform look like? What's the difference between abolition and reformation of police? What would San Antonio look like if SAPD was abolished?
How are police departments' budgets allocated and who is involved in the process? How much money usually goes to training officers and to measure improvement?
How integral are police unions to successfully reforming the status quo? What are the justifications for policies and tactics considered problematic by those advocating for change?
What services and departments are being proposed to work in conjunction with law enforcement? How would community policing work in practice? What is the public safety impact of these models?
How have other cities attempted to reform their police departments and what can we learn from the results? What policies are shown to improve police-community relations and reduce the risk of violence against people and communities of color?
- Rashawn Ray, Ph.D., fellow in Governance Studies at The Brookings Institution, sociology professor and executive director of the Lab for Applied Social Science Research at the University of Maryland College Park
- Ron DeLord, attorney and founder of the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas
- Maureen McGough, chief of staff at the Policing Project at New York University School of Law
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*This interview was recorded on Monday, July 20.
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