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Reform — not defund — the police

A stock image displaying a police officer amongst a background of citizens. Democratic and Republican politicians should engage in bipartisan police reform negotiations. FRESHIDEA – STOCK.ADOBE.COM

Both Democrats and Republicans have failed to identify the only solution that would put an end to police brutality and inefficiency: nationwide police reform. However, after the recently-released DOJ Investigation that detailed law enforcement’s failed response to the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, this issue can no longer be overlooked.  

If it isn’t bad enough that the Uvalde school shooting happened because of the loose gun laws legislated by far-right Texas Republicans, the pathetic police response only made the shooting more deadly.

According to an article published by The Washington Post, “Minute by minute and step by step, the report traces how police officers first arrived at the school but quickly retreated in the face of gunfire, deciding to treat a gunman in a room with dozens of children as a barricaded suspect and wait for backup. During that time, police officers spent about 40 minutes searching for a key to a classroom space that, the federal reviewers concluded, was probably unlocked the entire time. The pointless search for keys ‘was partly the cause of the significant delay,’ and police never tried to simply turn the doorknob.” 

Police brutality and inefficiency aren’t only limited to school shootings but to possible racially-motivated incidents, as well. 

On Nov. 22, 2014, 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot dead by a police officer in Cleveland, Ohio. Rice was shot because he appeared to be in possession of a firearm, which was revealed to be a toy after Rice was killed. 

Considering Rice was a child, the police officer had no excuse for why he didn’t exercise more caution when dealing with him. Furthermore, not only did this police officer lie on his job application form, but he managed to land another police stint after shooting Rice. 

Nationwide police reform is the only way the Uvalde school shooting wouldn’t have been so incompetently handled and Rice would not have been killed if the police officer had not been hired, being that he was fired from his previous job as a law enforcement officer.  

Two of the most significant police reform policies are to implement nationwide protocols such as de-escalation and training, as well as to end qualified immunity, which protects law enforcement officers from legal consequences when they abuse their power by using unjust force. Another vital police reform policy that yielded positive results and was shown to have numerous benefits is strengthening the relationship between the public and law enforcement through programs such as law enforcement involvement in community events. 

In January 2023, there was a bipartisan alliance between United States Senators Dick Durbin (Democrat), who serves as the Senate Judiciary Committee Chair, and Lindsey Graham (Republican), ending qualified immunity for police officers. Unfortunately, this negotiation failed mainly because the Republican-controlled House of Representatives felt that addressing the prevalent issue of crime on a national level was more of a priority than police reform. However, solving crime while implementing police reform policies can be worked on simultaneously. 

The first step to doing this is for police departments nationally to increase the pay of police officers and be more selective when hiring law enforcement officials, as there will be a higher level of job competition — drawing in more viable candidates with decent backgrounds to be police officers. To do this, we shouldn’t defund law enforcement, but fund these departments in specific ways to foster better habits and ensure police officers are trained to handle calls responsibly.

Defunding the police is a disastrous policy. For example, in Chicago, Ill. — where this policy has been put into effect — robbery victimizations have increased by 39.99% in the city between 2022-23.

The benefits of a well-funded police department can be seen by the fact that the Metro Nashville Police Department was able to handle the Mar. 27, 2023, Covenant, Tenn. shooting more effectively in comparison to Uvalde. This is partly due to Nashville allocating $60,000 more toward training in 2022-23 compared to Uvalde, which set aside only $22,838 for training during that same period.

At the end of the day, both federal and local authorities should be focusing on influencing police reform: the only public policy that would dramatically improve relations between law enforcement and the public while decreasing crime and making law enforcement officers more effective at doing their jobs. More politicians on both sides of the aisle should be considering engaging in bipartisan police reform negotiations. 

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About the Contributor
Vinod Kripalani, Assistant Opinions Editor
Vinod is a sophomore Political Science major. He started writing for The Statesman as a freshman, and is currently the Assistant Opinions Editor. When free, Vinod loves traveling, cycling, and swimming. His favorite place to have visited is the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.
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    SiobhanFeb 13, 2024 at 4:42 pm

    Some of your logic seems flawed. You claim the Uvalde police department could’ve handled their shooting more effectively if they funneled more money into the police, but what you fail to mention is that the Nashville police department is likely far larger than the Uvalde one, considering Nashville has a population of about 700,000 people and Uvalde has a population of about 16,000 according to Google. So Uvalde putting 20,000 dollars or so towards their police training likely means more than Nashville putting 60,000 dollars more towards their police training. Also, how can you claim that Chicago defunding their police department increases their crime without also showing Nashville’s crime statistics? If giving more money to the police is so important, shouldn’t you show the statistics from Nashville, who have funneled more money into police training, to help prove your point? Or does funneling more money into police only correlate to a decrease in crime and not cause it? Much to think about.

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